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Breast Cancer Bill

In 2007 Shailesh tried to introduce a Private Members Bill which would have increased routine breast cancer screening for women from the present 50-70 age group to the 45-75 age range. Despite the Bill having cross party support and the support of many charities the government of the day did not allow it to go through. MP’s supporting the Bill included former Secretary of State for Health Stephen Dorrell MP, Dr Ian Gibson MP, Bob Russell MP, Angela Browning MP, Julie Kirkbride MP, Roger Gale MP, Vera Baird MP, Ann Cryer MP, Dr Doug Naysmith MP, Annette Brooke MP and Dr Richard Taylor MP.

For further information on why Shailesh chose this subject, read the article below, entitled ‘Winning an election to make a difference’, which appeared in The House Magazine, Women's Health Supplement, in October 2005.

Winning an Election to make a difference!

There are many reasons why those of us who make it to the House of Commons stand for election. And high up on the list is - or should be - the opportunity to make a difference.

Changing the world might have to be a long term aspiration, but making a difference is something that all MPs can achieve, be it within their own constituency, or further a field; whether as a veteran of the House, or a newcomer, like me.

So, within weeks of arriving in Parliament, the opportunity to introduce a Private Members Bill came as a pleasant and welcome surprise.

My cause is the fight against breast cancer.

One in nine women suffer from this illness at some point in their lives and every year, some 13,000 women die from it. Indeed, it is the most common form of cancer in the UK, and it is the leading cause of death for women aged 34 to 54. Earlier detection and better treatments have improved mortality rates, but there is clearly much more to do.

At present, women between 50-70 are invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years. But breast cancer is not confined to that age group.

Of course, if a women has doubts, and her doctor feels that she needs a test in an age group other than 50-70, then she will be given a screening. But I believe the age group should be broadened for all women and not just for those who may suspect they have the illness.

That is why I would like to introduce a Bill that will extend the automatic screening period to 45-75.

The upper age should be increased as women are now living longer and more healthy lives than before. And the age should be lower on the basis that women younger than 50 also suffer from breast cancer. The point is clearly made by the recent high profile case of Kylie Minogue having the illness at the age of 37.

In an ideal world, I would have liked to introduce screening below 45, and I know I am not alone in that aspiration. But I recognise that there are limited resources, so I am prepared to settle for 45.

Prevention is always better than cure. It is better to identify breast cancer at the age of, say, 47 when it can be treated properly rather than it being identified at 50 when it may well be too late or the treatment will be far more expensive and more rigorous for the woman concerned.

I am fortunate to have cross-Party support for my Bill, and over the coming months I will be seeking to raise the profile of the issue, and to highlight the merits of broadening the automatic screening period.

I want my Bill to make it all the way through the system. I want to make a difference.

Contact Shailesh

Shailesh Vara MP
House of Commons
Constituency office:
01733 380 089
Westminster office:
020 7219 6050

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