Tessa Jowell’s Speech is the Reason England is Looking Closer at Glioblastoma

Tessa Jowell, former Labour party cabinet minister, delivered a moving speech to the UK House of Lords last week. The speech largely concerned her battle with glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer. To learn more about glioblastoma, click here.
Jowell continued to advocate for better patient rights and opportunities. Keep reading to learn more about her experiences, or follow the original story here.

The former minister received a brain tumor diagnosis in the previous year. While sharing her experiences with the House of Lords, Tessa Jowell headed debate on expanding options available to patients. Her points focused on better providing vital treatments to those on England’s National Health Service. Jowell’s remarks led to over a minute of continuous applause by Peers of the House.

Jowell’s experiences with glioblastoma began after two violent episodes of seizure.

The events came on unsuspected and unprecedented. Seizures began while Jowell was en route to East London for a Sure Start event.

“Two days later,” Jowell says, “I was told that I had a brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM.”

One week after diagnosis, a surgeon removed Jowell’s tumor. Surgery took place at the National Hospital in Queen Square. Jowell refers to the surgeon as “outstanding.” A standard treatment of radiation and chemotherapy followed removal of the tumor.

Jowell carefully points out that her experiences are uncommon. To begin, glioblastoma is rare. It affects fewer than 3000 people in England each year. Furthermore, outcomes and prospects for patients are often poor.

“But less than two per cent of cancer research funding in the UK is spent on brain tumors,” Jowell explains. “No vital new drugs have been developed in the last 50 years.”

She continues by explaining the most effective method for cancers like the glioblastoma she had. Surgical removal of the tumor is a major player in successful treatment. Doctors use a special dye to identify and locate the tumor in order to remove it. Only about half of the brain surgery centers in England have access to this method. Jowell insists that access to these methods be extended to all centers in England.

Jowell called also for innovative treatments to be promoted in other countries. She acknowledged that cancer is challenging to all health systems worldwide. England’s National Health Service faces specific challenges in regards to cancer and glioblastoma according to Jowell.

“We have the worst cancer survival rate in Western Europe,” Jowell elaborates. “Partly because diagnosis is too slow. Brain tumors grow very quickly. And they are hard to spot.”

The former minister expressed pride in the community of cancer patients. She extolled the manner in which patients work together to support and encourage each other. Patients become collaborators. They create community and determination any and every where they are able.

Jowell implored health professionals and the system they serve to do the same. All she asks is that they come together, and learn from one another.

The former minister concluded her speech by expressing her wish that the debate she kicked off will bring hope to other cancer patients. It is her hope that they can “live well with cancer, not just be dying of it. All of us. For longer.”


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