VOTE: Brave widow takes up husband’s fight for better cancer services

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As Father’s Day approaches, a woman who lost her husband to prostate cancer is campaigning for better quality of care for men in the north of England.

Terri McCoo has vowed to continue a campaign that her husband Ron started when he was fighting prostate cancer.

Every year 10,000 men die from prostate cancer and it is predicted to be the most common cancer in the UK by 2030.

However, the care that men receive has been proven by the charity Prostate Cancer UK to vary greatly depending on where they live.

Terri from Pilling, who previously ran the William Mitchell pub on Westgate in Morecambe and The Station pub at Caton with Ron, has taken her campaign to Parliament and has the backing of Lancaster’s MP Eric Ollerenshaw.

Terri, her daughter Kelsi and fellow campaigners have managed to gain the support of 97 MPs through their efforts.

She said: “Why should someone in London get better treatment than someone in the north?

“Ron always said there was a north/south divide.

“When he was on a trial of the drug abiraterone he got his life back. Then they said he couldn’t have it on the NHS because it cost £3,000 a month. They said it wasn’t worth it but it was to Ron and it was to us.

“He’d paid into the NHS through National Insurance all his life and worked hard. Why shouldn’t he have been entitled to the treatment?

“It gave Ron a few more months but I know one man who had four more years.”

A spokesman for Prostate Cancer UK said: “All men with prostate cancer have a right to have the best possible care and support regardless of where they live. Unfortunately, there are significant variations in prostate cancer incidence, patient experience, mortality and survival across the UK.”

The charity has brought together a report detailing the quality of treatment and care experienced by men across the UK. The report, which is the first of its kind, highlights the variation in the care and support men receive. The charity is also working with patients, families, clinicians and policy-makers to develop a ‘Quality Checklist’ which outlines the quality of care and support men with prostate cancer should expect to receive, no matter where they live. Prostate Cancer UK has many high-profile supporters including Hollywood hardman Ray Winstone, who leads a glittering cast that includes Charles Dance, John Simm, Neil Stuke, Stuart Laing, Cyril Nri, and Tamzin Outhwaite in a mini film made for the charity in the run up to Father’s Day.

Eric Ollerenshaw said: “I absolutely agree that people affected by all cancers should have access to the highest quality of care and the treatment they require.

“Through the Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme (PCRMP) the department is working to raise awareness of prostate cancer in men.” He said the Government had various programmes in place to improve services: “I recognise that more can be done and that is why I have raised the matter with ministers in the Commons.”

He said he would also contact the local Clinical Commissioning Group and Health and Wellbeing Board to establish what is being done locally.

Alex Gaw, clinical chair of Lancashire North Clinical Commissioning Group, said he had reviewed Prostate Cancer UK’s checklist and that it represented an “excellent set of standards” which he would expect to be adopted locally as best practice.

Terri said her main motivation was to raise awareness and help prevent more deaths: “Like Ron, I feel very passionately that people need to be aware of prostate cancer so they can do something about it. I say, go to your doctor before it’s too late. There is a misconception that it only happens to men of pension age. It’s not just an older man’s disease.

“I am gutted that if I had been aware of prostate cancer, Ron could have been sitting here with me now. The sooner you go to your doctor, the more chance you have of being cured.”