Malcolm looks at trends and developments in the treatment of breast cancer
Debate on Breast Cancer in Scotland Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab):
I, too, congratulate Rhona Brankin on securing this important debate. Like her, I am fondly remembering Margaret Ewing on this occasion. First, I must apologise for having to leave after my speech, but I will be chairing a meeting of the cross-party group on cancer at 5.30 pm in TG.20. I invite members to come to the meeting after the debate, and to hear about the work of Macmillan Cancer Support. It is appropriate to mention that organisation, as the motion refers to the importance of the voluntary sector, particularly in relation to breast cancer. I am sure that we will all want this evening to pay tribute to Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care Scotland, the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign and other groups.

We should also acknowledge the great progress that has been made in the treatment of breast cancer in the past few years and under different Governments. As Rhona Brankin pointed out, a higher percentage of women are surviving the condition. We should certainly pay tribute to all national health service staff. As an Edinburgh MSP, I pay tribute to the breast unit staff at the Western general hospital.

That said, many women are still dying from breast cancer, so we clearly have a great deal to do and many improvements to make. Rhona Brankin referred to one of the mechanisms for improvement - the service pledge, which is being developed in Scotland by Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Central to the pledge is a partnership between clinicians and patients to identify areas for improvement. I am told that it is being developed through SCAN - the south east Scotland cancer network - and I look forward to hearing about the pledges that patients and clinicians develop with a view to improving the service.

A similar partnership between patients and clinicians was evidenced in the "Standards of Care for people with secondary breast cancer" document, which was launched at the Scottish Parliament in June. I was very pleased to host the launch meeting. I would be interested to find out whether the Scottish Government has looked at, or has any comment to make on, those standards. They are designed to raise awareness of the care, treatment and support that a person who is diagnosed with secondary breast cancer should receive, and they stress the importance of co-ordination of care, access to a clinical nurse specialist, access to information and good psychosocial support. I find it interesting that when patients are involved in development service improvements, they always emphasise that broad agenda. Another demand that was made at that meeting related to the fact that we do not have accurate data on the number of women who are living with secondary breast cancer.

An issue that I have recently been approached about at my surgeries is lymphoedema. I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing on the matter on behalf of a constituent who wanted to access the liposuction service for the condition, which is available only in Dundee. It is not a national service, but clearly many women want to access it. I would welcome the minister's comments on what is certainly an area of concern.

I note that the Scottish Breast Cancer Campaign expressed in its submission general concern that services for lymphoedema are available in some parts of Scotland but not in others.

On research, Rhona Brankin mentioned the Breakthrough Breast Cancer research centre at the Western general hospital in Edinburgh. I was very pleased this summer to visit that outstanding facility, which opened about 18 months ago and is carrying out pioneering work, particularly on personalised care and on developing drugs to match patients' genetic profiles. We should welcome that and all the other contributions that Breakthrough Breast Cancer is making.

S3M-4493, in the name of Rhona Brankin, on breast cancer awareness month.
That the Parliament notes with concern the increasing incidence of breast cancer in the NHS Lothian area, with nearly 3,000 women diagnosed between 2002 and 2006; further notes that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women in Scotland; recognises that women experiencing breast cancer deserve appropriate diagnosis, services, treatment and support; acknowledges the invaluable work of breast cancer organisations in Scotland in the funding of research, campaigning for service improvements and better treatments, promotion of breast awareness and provision of support services and literature, and welcomes the role of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October in raising awareness of the impact of breast cancer in Scotland.
September 30th 2009, (Column 20129-31)