The breast cancer patients TOO OLD to save: Thousands are being denied surgery by ‘ageist’ doctors
Elderly women are being denied life-saving breast cancer surgery that is routinely given to younger patients, alarming research reveals. Some doctors look at a patient’s age in their notes – and decide on a treatment plan before they have even met them, experts warn.
Their study, which provides evidence of ageism in the Health Service, found that 90 per cent of breast cancer patients aged 30-50 are offered surgery to remove tumours, compared with 70 per cent of those in their seventies.
Even women in their 50s are less likely than younger patients to have an operation.
Cancer specialist Dr Mick Peake said: ‘I’ve seen evidence of ageism when doctors are approaching the issue. Some take age as disproportionate evidence, often when they’ve never even met the patient. ‘I’d like patients and relatives to bang their fists on the table and say, “Why aren’t we getting this treatment?”,’ added Dr Peake, of the National Cancer Intelligence Network, which carried out the research.
An operation to remove part or all of the breast is the most effective treatment for breast cancer. Patients are only offered chemotherapy or radiotherapy if the cancer has spread to such an extent that surgery is impossible.
According to the research, just 87 per cent of women in their fifties – who are normally otherwise fit and healthy – have surgery, falling to 82 per cent of those aged 60 to 70. Only half of over-80s, and 33 per cent of those over 85, are offered surgery.
The NCIN is funded by the Government and cancer charities to improve research. The latest research, presented at its annual conference in London, looked at the records of 23,000 women with breast cancer in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and North East England between 1997 and 2005.
Women were also less likely to have surgery if they had other illnesses such as heart disease, strokes, dementia and diabetes – which put them at higher risk of complications during the anaesthetic.
But even once these illnesses were taken into account, the research found that the elderly were still far less likely to be offered an operation.
Often, doctors may feel a patient is too frail for surgery, which can be particularly traumatic if they lose their breast. Although they may not tell a patient not to have the operation, they often strongly advise against it and warn them of the potential dangers. But the risks are extremely low. Figures show that there is only one death in every 200,000 operations.
Dr Katrina Lavelle, lead study author, from the University of Manchester, said: ‘Previous research has shown that older women are less likely to have surgery for breast cancer, compared with younger patients.
‘Surgery to remove breast tumours is one of the most effective ways to treat this cancer, so it’s important to get a better understanding of what lies behind these differences. ‘This research suggests that the presence of other illnesses, which we know increases with age, does not fully explain the difference in treatment between older and younger patients.’
Sarah Woolnough, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This data means we need to ask serious questions about whether ageism exists in breast cancer surgery. ‘Surgery is one of the most effective treatments for cancer so it’s crucial that as many women as possible are given the opportunity to have an operation to remove their breast tumour. ‘We need to understand more about why the number of women having breast surgery drops off with age and ensure they’re not being denied potentially life-saving treatment simply based on their age.’
Only last week, a report by The King’s Fund think-tank warned that elderly cancer patients in Britain were being diagnosed later than those in other European countries and were less likely to be referred for operations.
Previous estimates claim that 15,000 elderly die prematurely every year because cancer care on the NHS is not as good as that provided elsewhere in Europe and the U.S.
One in eight women will get breast cancer. Up to 47,700 women are being diagnosed every year, double the number diagnosed 30 years ago.
Human rights victory for rapists and paedophiles in Britain
Thousands of sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, will be able to apply to be removed from the sex crimes register under human rights laws, the Government has announced.
A Supreme Court ruling has forced the Government reluctantly to draw up new rules allowing serious sex offenders put on the register for life to have their place on the list reconsidered.
The Home Office plans were opposed by child protection campaigners and Conservative MPs, who said some offenders could never be considered completely “safe”. The new rules were drawn up because the Supreme Court ruled that automatic lifetime inclusion on the register breached the Human Rights Act.
David Cameron said the ruling was “offensive,” but ministers say they have no choice but to comply by changing the rules on the register.
The case is the latest involving the Act to set judges against political opinion. It has increased calls for reform of the Act, which is being reviewed by a Coalition committee.
Under current rules, anyone sentenced to more than 30 months in jail for a sexual offence is put on the register for life on release. Those on the register are monitored by police and visited regularly by officers. The Home Office estimates that there are about 44,000 people on the register, about 25,000 of them for life.
Under the proposed rules, adults listed for life could apply for removal after 15 years. Their cases would be considered by police and probation officers. Those under 18 at the time of their crime would be able to seek a review after eight years.
The Home Office estimated that the change would mean more than 2,000 people a year would be eligible to seek a review. Offenders whose applications are rejected will have to wait another eight years before being able to seek another assessment. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it opposed allowing child abusers to be removed from the register.
A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “Our view remains that adults who sexually abuse children should stay on the offenders register for life as we can never be sure their behaviour will change.”
Priti Patel, a Tory MP, said the court ruling added to the case for reform of the Human Rights Act. “Sex offenders are vile criminals,” she said. “Why are these people allowed to use human rights laws to protect themselves? What about their victims?”
This is not the first case of the Coalition being forced to introduce potentially controversial measures at the behest of judges. Ministers are drawing up plans to allow some prisoners the vote after a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Cameron told MPs in February that the court ruling on the register “flies in the face of common sense”. He ordered an appeal, which was rejected in April, forcing ministers to draw up the new system.
Despite ministers’ reservations about the change, the Home Office’s “impact assessment” study suggested that it could bring some benefits. Removing some people from the register would mean that “police resources may focus on those offenders who pose a higher and continuing risk,” it said.
The department said investigations suggested that not all the 2,000 offenders a year eligible to apply to be removed would do so. It predicted a maximum of 1,200 offenders would apply for removal.
Some experts and campaigners believe that several offenders present a permanent danger, justifying permanent restrictions on their freedoms.
The Home Office said it was impossible to say how many, if any, applications for removal from the register would be successful. But Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers suggested that very few applications would succeed.
“No doubt there will be no shortage of sex offenders who will want to appeal against being on the register because of stigma and shame,” he said. “However it is highly unlikely that any will be successful. To be removed, the individual will have to prove that they are no longer a threat to women and children and this will be extremely difficult.”
A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said some sex offenders would always pose a risk, but backed the review plan. “The reality is that the risks posed by some offenders can never be completely eliminated,” he said. “But we will continue to do all in our power to keep them to a minimum and believe that the proposed review process strikes the right balance between individual rights and public safety.”
Anticipating public unease about the new rules, the Home Office also proposed tightening the conditions applied to people on the register, forcing them to give the police their bank and passport details and notice of any foreign travel.
British Equalities office where women earn 8% more than men
Its role is self-evident in its title, but it seems the Government Equalities Office may have gone a little too far in correcting unfairness on its own doorstep. Its female employees are being paid an average of 7.7 per cent more than male colleagues. Across Britain, men on average earn ten per cent more than women.
Whitehall’s most politically correct department, set up to eradicate sexism across all the Government, also has nearly twice as many female employees as men. Of the 107 staff, 65 per cent are women. Three years ago, around the time Labour’s sexual equality supremo Harriet Harman took charge, 56 per cent of staff were women.
Tory MP Dominic Raab last night criticised the department’s apparently poor grasp of its own motto, ‘Putting equality at the heart of government’.
The Esher and Walton MP said: ‘It undermines the credibility of the equality and diversity agenda if bureaucrats at the government equalities office are preaching about unequal representation and the pay gap, whilst practising the reverse. It smacks of double standards.’ He believes men get a ‘raw deal’ because anti-discrimination legislation favours women, and he claims men are the victims of ‘obnoxious bigotry’ by women.
The Government’s own strategy on equality warns that ‘positive discrimination is not acceptable and is unlawful’. Yet the gender pay gap has almost doubled in the Government Equalities Office since 2008. It became a gulf under the leadership of feminist Miss Harman, Labour’s Deputy Leader and the former equalities minister, who took over in late 2007. Six jobs out of every seven created since June 2008 went to women.
And before spending cuts were imposed on Whitehall, administration costs soared from just over £5million to £9.4million. The department spent nearly £185,000 on a conference to reverse sexism for women prisoners, holding ten events to discuss how to ‘best utilise the gender equality duty to meet the distinct needs of women offenders’. A further £3,768 was spent on venue charges for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.
The department has also splashed out on glitzy events, including a European Union Women in Power summit in Cadiz, Spain, in February 2010 and a road show for female councillors.
An examination of its annual reports also revealed that it failed to meet its own target to reduce spending on pen-pushers. In the four years to 2010, staff levels rocketed from 62 to 130, dropping to 107 this year.
A spokesman played down the widening pay gap, adding: ‘Like all civil servants, staff are employed on fair and open competition. Gender is not a factor in any decisions.’
Scandal of British school failures: ‘Almost half not providing a good enough education’
Almost half of schools in England are not giving pupils a good enough education, inspectors said today. Around 45 per cent of those that have been assessed by Ofsted since the start of the academic year were found to be just satisfactory or inadequate.
As education watchdog Ofsted focuses more on weaker schools, inspections of institutions deemed to be ‘outstanding’ has been deferred unless there is a noticeable decline in standards.
Overall more than a third of schools inspected since the start of the current academic year were found to be ‘satisfactory’ while six per cent were declared inadequate. Only 10 per cent of schools were given the top rating and the remainder were given a ‘good’ rating.
When they are inspected, rather than being given a numerical score, schools are given a rating of outstanding, good, satisfactory or inadequate. Nurseries, primaries, secondaries, special schools and pupil referral units that receive the latter two ratings are effectively judged as not being good enough.
Between September 2010 and April this year around 1,849 of the 4,062 schools that were visited by inspectors were judged to be satisfactory or inadequate. Nearly half (1,805) were judged to be ‘good’ with only 408 being given top marks.
Ofsted chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: ‘Ofsted’s current school inspection arrangements set out to be more challenging to schools, so it is encouraging to see 54 per cent were judged good or outstanding. ‘Greater involvement of headteachers and senior staff in the inspection process is helping schools better understand areas for development and action.’
The watchdog added that because of the focus on weaker schools there is no direct comparison with grades of previous years.
Concentration on poorer performing schools reflects moves by the Government to raise standards and from January no school that is deemed outstanding will face inspection unless standards slip.
Data for the whole of the academic year 2009/10 show that eight per cent of schools inspected were found to be inadequate, 37per cent were satisfactory, 43per cent were good and 13per cent were outstanding.
“Western parents need to chill out about their kids”
The author of Paranoid Parenting says that far from needing a stricter ‘Asian’ approach, Western parenting is already way too intensive
Last night, in a debate in London titled ‘Western parents don’t know how to bring up their children’, regular spiked contributor Frank Furedi clashed with Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , and others. Furedi’s opening remarks are published below.
When it comes to discussing parenting, everyone thinks they are warranted to take their own personal story and recast it as a philosophy. On no other issue are you allowed to communicate such prejudices and such stereotypes as you are in relation to parenting.
So Theodore Dalrymple [one of the other speakers] happened to hear a couple of children swearing and concluded that this has never happened before in British society. Children of his generation would never have used a four-letter word, that was unthinkable. And now we apparently have this epidemic of children who go around swearing and so it is obvious that British parents are not doing their bit. Amy Chua [another speaker] concludes that in Western societies children have too much choice. Really? They have so much choice that middle-class children in London literally have their entire lives organised for them by their parents.
From the moment they get up in the morning to the evening, when they are passed around by their parents from one activity to another, literally they have no free time to be children and to relax. The idea that we live in a world where children have incredible choices, and where parents are laid back, chilled out and ‘just get on with it’, is a myth. It bears no relationship with reality. I think it’s important to realise that when we talk about Western parenting, what we are really talking about is intensive parenting. Western parenting is phenomenally intensive today. Parents now spend far more time with their children than they did in any other generation. Each day, a working mother in the twenty-first century in Britain spends two to three hours more looking after her children than a mother who stayed at home in the 1970s. That’s how intensive it has become.
What is really interesting is that all these so-called ‘Asian attributes’ discussed in Amy Chua’s book [Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother] are not Asian at all. Anybody who has been to New York or Massachusetts will recognise those characteristics straight away. To give an example of how it works: the other day a friend of mine in New York told me a story about how her four-year-old has been on a waiting list for a high-powered pre-school nursery. She had been on it for months and months. And the mum wanted to know how she could train her child to get into the nursery so that she could play with toys. At first I thought she was exaggerating, but then I went online and discovered that there is an online service called ‘How to ace a pre-school interview’. And it wasn’t a service for Chinese people or Cambodian refugees. It was for Westerners.
This is pretty much what it said: Education nowadays starts even before kindergarten. The best and most elite preschools don’t just have expensive tuition, they have long waiting lists of eager parents who would send their children there in a heartbeat. If you’re lucky enough to have a preschool call you and your child in for an interview, you should do everything in your power to give the best possible impression. That kind of competitive, high-powered parenting will be quite familiar to anyone who lives in north London. Indeed, in most middle-class neighbourhoods in London and around Britain there seem to be more tutors than rats these days.
One side of the stereotype today is that parents over here are laid back and relaxed and care a lot about a child’s self-esteem. And then the other side of the stereotype is that in China and elsewhere in Asia, parents are really hardass and they would never dream of spoiling their child. There has been a protracted debate in China about ‘little emperors’, about how much children have been spoiled by their parents. That debate has been going on for a very long time. But the awkward fact is that if you happen to go to Shanghai or Beijing, you will actually find the equivalents of Islington mummies and daddies, who are adopting exactly the same, fairly intensive parenting style that exists over here. They just say it all in Chinese rather than English.
So it seems to me that we are essentially discussing two middle-class approaches towards parenting – ‘intensive parenting’ in the West and ‘tiger parenting’ in the East – rather than two things that are really culturally different from one another. It’s very easy to get confused in this debate. My argument is simple and straightforward. Western parents are actually quite good at parenting, if they are left alone. Parenting is not rocket science; you don’t need a PhD in developmental psychology to be a good mum or dad. There is no problem with Western parents. No, the real problem is that society now does everything in its power to make it difficult for parents to have confidence in their judgement calls. We make it very hard for parents to live the life of a parent, to feel like a real parent, because all their intuition and all their approaches towards life are constantly undermined.
So what are the problems that we face in the West? The first one is that we have a tendency to devalue parental confidence. Time and time again, we continually pathologise what parents do. All the politicians in all the political parties seem to dine out on lecturing parents about their failures. I can remember the moment when – it was either Gordon Brown or David Cameron, but they were totally together on this issue – when one of the political leaders gave a typical presidential lecture. They adopted that tone of compassionate care and said ‘y’know Jim’ – it was on the Today programme or something – ‘parenting is probably the most difficult job in the world’.
And everybody thinks a politician deserves a standing ovation because he says ‘parenting is the most difficult job in the world’. But actually it isn’t. Being a nuclear physicist is a lot more difficult that being a parent. Being a Formula One driver is, on balance, a bit more complex than changing your son’s nappies.
In truth, what people really mean when they say that parenting is the most difficult job in the world is that the ordinary mums and dads over there are unlikely to be up to this very difficult task. You, mum, and you, dad, need a phenomenal amount of parenting advice. You need a posse of experts to come in and hold your hand and give you what they call ‘support’.
What we now have are constant reminders telling us how difficult parenting is, which of course makes parents very insecure. This then leads to what I think is the real problem – which is that there is now so much pressure on parents to do this very difficult job well that they start to live their lives through their children. And as you live your life through your children, you begin to lose sight of what it is that you ought to be doing. When you live your life through your children, your parenting style becomes synonymous with your identity. And that’s the really tragic thing about the world that we live in today: you forget about the real job of childrearing and become much more concerned about parenting as a cultural accomplishment of identity construction.
The reason why we have debates like this one is because the transformation of parenting into a way of forging an identity, its close relationship with who we are, means we can’t just relax about different parenting styles. You can’t simply say, ‘Well, Amy brings up her child this way, that’s cool, I don’t like it but that’s her business’, or ‘Jessica brings up her child another way, y’know, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t do that’. Instead of just saying that some parents do things differently because their children are different or their circumstances are different, we feel an urge to make a political issue out of who we are as parents. And the more we make a political issue out of it, the more we take our eyes off the real job – which is looking after our kids in the best way that we can.
I think that on a good day, Western parents do that really, really well. The problem is not that Western parents can’t bring up their kids; the problem is that, due to all the cultural and political pressures that I have described, Western parents have lost the capacity to chill out, relax and get a life.
Wow! New Scientist is losing its religion
They have an article just up on the theme:: “Global warming not to blame for 2011 droughts”. Excerpt:
While global warming is an obvious suspect, there’s no evidence that it is to blame. Though climate change models predict extended droughts and periods of intense rainfall for the end of the 21st century, they don’t explain the current droughts, says Martin Hoerling at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “A lot of these extreme conditions are natural variations of the climate. Extremes happen, heat waves happen, heavy rains happen,” he says….
As for the apparent convergence of droughts worldwide, Mark Saunders of University College London says current conditions aren’t that unusual. News media may simply be more tuned in to reporting extreme weather events.