In the fourth part of her series on our new strategy, Sophie Lutter explains why support for today is as much a priority as planning for tomorrow.
Ambitions for the future are the bread and butter of medical research charities. They have to be – that’s where hope for a brighter tomorrow comes from.
But it’s so important that with all this emphasis on what we can achieve in the future, we don’t forget about the men who need us now. The men who have just been, or will soon be, diagnosed with prostate cancer and their families. These are men who need support to choose the right treatment, who need access to the latest drugs and treatment innovations, and who need to know exactly what ‘good care’ looks like and how to make sure they get it. And they need all these things now.
That’s why ‘better support’ is still a key aspect of our new strategy. And this isn’t about 10 years’ time – it’s about right now.
Men with prostate cancer still face a postcode lottery around access to treatment and support services, and it just isn’t good enough
We know that health services now have a much greater understanding of the importance of access to gold-standard treatments, as well as the need for post-treatment support. But the fact is that men with prostate cancer still face a postcode lottery around access to treatment and support services. And it just isn’t good enough.
Furthermore, it’s all very well to talk about advances in research. But it’s no good if those discoveries stay in the lab or within the pages of learned journals. It’s our job to work together with researchers and health providers to turn shifts in science into routine care provision. It’s a big job, but we’re ready for the challenge.
Alison Richardson, Professor of Cancer Nursing at the University of Southampton, really hit the nail on the head when she said: "We mustn’t lose sight of men’s todays and tomorrows over the next 10 years. We need to understand, and shine a light on, the inequalities in access to the best care, and be relentless in levelling the playing field."
She went on to comment on the importance of bringing scientific discoveries out of the lab and into the hands of the doctors and nurses on the front line. "There’s a whole field of implementation science that concentrates on this, and it’s important not to forget that proper investment here can make a huge difference," she said.
Look at the way treatment of breast cancer or cystic fibrosis has changed in recent years. Prostate Cancer UK can do the same for men
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, added an important reminder about the role that single cause organisations like Prostate Cancer UK can play in leading change: "Sometimes it can seem as though there are a million single issue organisations fighting for attention," he said. "But that fight is important. These organisations can make a massive shift in a single area – just look at the way treatment of breast cancer or cystic fibrosis has changed in recent years. And Prostate Cancer UK can do the same for men.
“This is vital not just in bringing in the money, but in prodding large organisations like the NHS to improve."
So there you have it. Our strategy is ambitious. It’s entirely dependent on raising enough money to make it work but we have the experts on our side. And with your help, we know we can do it. We’re not saying that we need to wait 10 years to see a change. But we believe that in 10 years’ time, we will have halved the expected number of deaths from prostate cancer. We’ll have tamed this disease.
With the support of the Movember Foundation, we're funding four PhD students in the crucial field of bioinformatics, using big data to help accelerate our understanding and treatment of prostate cancer.