Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What do we want? We want cancer screening. Now.

Be difficult to blog much over next three weeks. I'll be out supporting our eight council candidates in Montgomeryshire as much as I can. Tonight, I've been out with Aled Davies in Llanrhaedr-ym-mochnant. I'm very keen that Aled wins. He would be a wonderful councillor. My hope is that we win Llanwddyn, Llanfyllin and Llanrhaedr (Tanat Valley). These are the three most Welsh constituencies in Powys and I our commitment to bilingualism in Montgomeryshire may well make the people of these three areas feel comfortable and confident with Montgomeryshire Conservatives. It would be a huge message to my party right across Wales if we manage to pull it off.

But I want to report on yesterday's visit to the National Assembly before it recedes into the storage part of my memory. I parked outside our flat in Century Wharf and walked in, as I always used to. New coffee house named Mischief on the way - so I called in. No customers, so I asked if it was open. "Been open two minutes" said the man in charge. Since I hadn't seen the coffee house before, I asked him how long it had been open. "Two minutes" he said. I was the first ever customer. So now I have a special bond with Mischief.

A day of catch-up meetings, including half an hour with his lordship, the Presiding Officer which was highly informative as always, and five minutes watching Peter Black perform with as much fire as I'm ever seen from him when attacking the badger cull in the debate on Bovine Tb. In passing, I really cannot fathom the logic in having the debate on this issue a week after the Minister announced her decision. And finished the day speaking at a reception in the Senedd to promote cancer screening.

I was there to speak as one of three cancer sufferers, before Finance Minister, Andrew Davies responded on behalf of the Health Minister, who had cried off for personal reasons. Newer readers of this blog will not know that in 2002, I went down with Colorectal Cancer, and underwent surgery which involved the removal of my lower bowel, anus and rectum - so I do know a bit about the subject. And what I know more than anything else is that early diagnosis can be the difference between life and death - so I'm a passionate advocate of all forms of cancer screening. The Minister told us that a screening programme for Bowel Cancer is beginning in Wales in October - for people in their 60s. Well OK - but its all oh so slow. Efficient screening for all over 50s would save hundreds of lives every year. If similar numbers died unneccesarily in any other way, there would be a public outcry for new laws to be passed with real urgency. Pilot scemes in England and Scotland have shown that for every 1000 people screened, 1 to 2 are found to have a cancerous tumour that they didn't know about, 4 to 6 have polyps in their bowel, which can lead to a tumour, and 16 need a follow up colonoscopy. The lack of screening really is rather shocking. I would have driven to Cardiff just to to say these things to a public audience. And supper at the Felinfach Griffin was its usual high standard on the way home.

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