Opinion - Cancer figures pretty grim reading

Charles Graham

Charles Graham

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SOME of the figures that featured on the Wigan Evening Post’s front page recently made for pretty grim reading.

They concerned the frequency of, and survival rates from, the most common forms of cancer.

There can be few of us who haven’t been touched by these vile illnesses one way or another.

And while medical breakthroughs and the encouragement of early reporting (leading to early intervention) have helped to reduce fatalities in some areas, it is quite surprising and very depressing that survival from other manifestations remains stubbornly high.

In fact in 2014, our supposedly high-tech age of miraculous medicine, someone diagnosed with lung cancer has only a one in five chance of conquering it.

I doubt that life chance ratio has changed much since World War Two when everyone was smoking and treatment was a whole lot more primitive.

That’s despite a lot of fund-raising and high-profile campaigns, including that particularly moving and inspirational one by the late Roy Castle.

The greatest inroads appear to be being made in the prevention and curing of breast cancer cases.

I’ve no figures to prove it but it wouldn’t surprise me if that was a branch of cancer medicine which has received more charitable funding than any other, although of course it is easier to remove a breast than a lung or a pancreas.

It is also a cancer which can strike its victims at an earlier age than, say, prostate cancer (which is just as prevalent) while not being seen as in anyway self-inflicted (like smoke-related lung tumours), and so people are more inclined to sympathise and donate.

There is much excitement in the gene therapy field about future breakthroughs. For thousands of Wigan folk they can’t come soon enough.

And in the meantime, as has always been the case, we need to minimise the risks wherever possible.

The causes of some vicious forms of cancer remain a frustrating mystery, so there is not much we can do. Others, we know, are more within our control.

Some folk may feel that the restrictions on smokers are these days verging on the draconian.

Banished from all public places including pubs, cigarettes have gone from social norm to pariah in the space of a generation.

But common sense is prevailing.

And I think that this week’s Parliamentary vote to make it illegal to smoke in a car when children are present is perfectly sensible. It is sad that it is deemed necessary because you would expect it these days to be common sense to keep toxic fumes away from the young. But then again legislation is usually introduced to keep the selfish minority in check while unaffecting the majority who would never dream of such an infringement with or without the stick of the law waved above them.

What pollutants people put in their own bodies and increase the risk of a serious illness is up to them.

But inflicting them on innocents is another matter entirely. And when by far your best chance of not dying from lung cancer is not getting it in the first place, who can morally stand up and say it is their parental right to blow potentially deadly fumes over their young?