HC Deb 05 February 1998 vol 305 c773W
Ms Moran

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research his Department has(a) commissioned and (b) evaluated into radiotherapy damage resulting from radiotherapy treatment; [24536]

(2) what information is made available to alert women to the possible side effects of radiotherapy for breast cancer. [24537]

Mr. Milburn

In 1994, the Department of Health issued guidance to the National Health Service on quality assurance in radiotherapy, "Quality Assurance in Radiotherapy—A Quality Management System for Radiotherapy". This is monitored through the Inspectorate for the Ionising Radiation Regulations (1988).

More recently, the Department's Central Audit Unit has funded two pieces of work. The first was guidelines on the management of women with adverse effects following radiotherapy treatment. They were produced by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) through a group chaired by Dr. Jane Maher. The guidelines were issued to the NHS by the Department in October 1995. The second was a confidential clinical review of 126 consenting members of Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure (RAGE)—a support group representing those suffering damage following treatment by radiotherapy for breast cancer—which was also conducted by the RCR and disseminated by the College to its fellows.

We are concerned to ensure that all patients and their families, including cancer patients who may have particular worries about the disease and its treatment, receive information which is clear, concise and easily understood, not only about the proposed treatments, but about possible alternatives and any substantial risks, so that they can make a balanced judgment about accepting treatment.

In 1995, the support group British Association of Cancer United Patients (BACUP), in conjunction with the Royal Colleges and other charities like CancerLink, Breast Cancer Care and RAGE, produced a series of three leaflets about radiotherapy for breast cancer and early detection of any adverse effects. This was partly funded by the Department of Health.

Copies of the leaflets were sent to each breast care nurse and oncologist with details of how to obtain a stock from BACUP for distribution to patients as needed. It was considered that these professionals were in the best position to make the leaflets available to patients at the appropriate stage in their treatment. Copies will be placed in the Library.

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