Women unite in anger to fight killer disease

Breast cancer: Coalition launched to lobby for increase in research spending
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The Independent Online

Health Editor

Hundreds of women in 11 cities joined forces yesterday to launch the UK Breast Cancer Coalition which aims to establish a national strategy to conquer the disease which kills 300 women every week.

The coalition is demanding increased government spending on breast cancer research, claiming that just pounds 3m will be spent this year compared with pounds 22bn on defence.

Nancy Roberts, chairwoman of the coalition and radio personality, said: "The mood in the UK is changing. Women are angry. Angry that we cannot trust the health system to provide us with quality care, angry that so little is being done to discover the causes of breast cancer, and angry at the lack of psycho- social support and aftercare for those of us stricken with this baffling and terrifying disease."

Ms Roberts, a breast cancer sufferer, said the coalition would unite women across Britain, ending the isolation many feel. The group is modelled on the American National Breast Cancer Coalition which it says has increased US government spending on research from $90m (pounds 60m) annually to $600m (pounds 400m).

The launch follows several reports calling for a radical over-haul of breast cancer services here, the most influential of which was produced by the Commons Health Select Committee in July. The committee said the UK's poor survival rates for the disease - among the worst in the world - are due in part to inadequate treatment. It estimated that 4,000 unnecessary deaths could be prevented each year if women were treated in specialist units by multi-disciplinary teams of breast experts, from radiologists to nurses.

The coalition's aims are access for all women to state-of-the-art treatment; a higher priority to be given to causes, prevention and quality of life issues; and more say for women in decisions about the disease. The initiative has won support from medical and research organisations, cancer charities, women's and environmental groups, MPs from every party and a number of celebrities who were present at the London launch at the House of Commons yesterday, the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Simultaneous launches took place in Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Liverpool, Bristol, Norwich, Newcastle, Carlisle, Leeds and Portsmouth.