At some time in our lives the vast majority of people will be affected by Cancer, either personally or through a member of their family or friends. However, happily, for the majority of sufferers, the treatment available both in the UK and Spain,

helps to ensure that the majority live a full and active life post treatment.

Despite claims to the contrary, the best indicator of outcome following treatment, is the rapid and professional diagnosis of Cancer. The reason for the increased survival rates is due to two factors, improvements in treatment but also the number of people seeking treatment in the early stages of Cancer. This is why regular check–ups are vital, yet many people fear the word ‘Cancer’ and all its connotations and put off seeking medical advice. If it is Cancer and you seek treatment at an early stage, you stand a much better chance of a full recovery. If it is not, then your mind will be put at rest. How many people boast that they have not seen a doctor for years? Well you should.

If you have not had a check up for over 3 or 4 years you should make an appointment with your GP to give you an MOT! Spain has an excellent screening programme for women. Ask your GP if you are not in the system for the regular calls for Cervical smears and/or mammograms. Remember, any person offering medical treatment here in Spain MUST be registered with the appropriate professional body, the College of Professionals. Do not take medical advice from anyone who is not appropriately qualified. They have no status here in Spain. UK qualifications CAN be recognised and anyone with UK medical qualifications should ask for them to be homologated (recognised) by the Spanish government. The Ministry of Education and Science will approve any qualification they deem to be equivalent to a qualification offered here in Spain. Their website gives details and the British Consulate can advise. Remember, as a ‘consumer’ of the health service, here in Spain or the UK, your doctor’s qualifications are your assurance of quality. The training and re–training that your GP and specialist undertake ensure that they have the widest knowledge of all the possible treatments options open to you. Following this, all drugs used or prescribed are manufactured to strict quality standards. You know exactly what you are getting. Furthermore, anyone working as a qualified medical practitioner is insured and answerable to their controlling body. These are important issues to consider when accepting any treatments offered.

No–one should fear the quality of the medical treatment for Cancer here in Spain. In fact Spain ranks above the UK in survival rates for Cancer in a League of 22 countries.

(Telegraph 21 August 2007). This can possibly be explained by better, more rapid, access to Radiotherapy.

Once you have been diagnosed with Cancer, there is no denying that the Spanish system of health has a different culture from that of the UK. There is still less of a chance that your hospital doctor will discuss your treatment with you at length. Hospital care here, appears to be more technical and less ‘touchy feely’ than in the UK. The Doctor is there to treat you and not to make small talk! The nurses will administer drugs but not plump your pillows and they certainly won’t help you eat your lunch! Traditionally in Spain, it was the women in the family that performed the nurturing function and stayed with the patient during their stay in hospital. This is why you still see beds in hospitals that are surrounded by family members, who often sleep the night in the armchair next to the bed! …with the TV going full volume!

It IS different from the UK, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that different is worse.

In the next issue:

Questions to ask and sources of support for Cancer Patients.