A campaigner's mission to make dental treatment free for cancer patients took a significant step with a debate at Westminster.

Michele Solak-Edwards, from Flixton, Trafford, started a petition four years ago which is on the verge of 200,000 signatures.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and, a year after she started the petition, she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Shortly after the first diagnosis she was shocked to be told dental treatment is not free for cancer patients as it is for others such as people who are under the age of 18 and people who are on low incomes.

It was this experience as well as the experiences of other women in her network which led to the start of the campaign.

Messenger Newspapers: Michele Solak-Edwards

Ms Solak-Edwards said: "I saw stories of people saying 'I am losing every tooth in my head. What am I going to do?'."

"I started the campaign because it was a common theme."

Andrew Western, the MP for Stretford and Urmston, is a supporter and this week he secured a debate at Westminster.

He set out the petition, which includes improved access and improved information, to Health Minister Andrea Leadsom.

Messenger Newspapers: Andrew Western

Mr Western said: "We must act on an under-appreciated crisis. 

"I encourage the minister to address the asks of the campaign including not only the long-term aim of free dental care for cancer patients but, in the short to medium term, the possibility of prioritising cancer patients to receive dental care and ensuring there is information on the need for cancer patients to receive dental care provided at the first point of contact with their GP or cancer team."

Ms Leadsom agreed to look into improved information and agreed to meet with Ms Solak-Edwards about other issues.

However she stopped short of any commitment to look into the idea of making dental treatment free for cancer patients.

Messenger Newspapers: Andrea Leadsom

Ms Leadsom said: "At a time when NHS budgets are under pressure it is not feasible to offer free dental care to every patient regardless of their means. 

"We are instead focusing our efforts on continuing to ensure the most vulnerable are supported to access NHS dentistry including patients with cancer."

Ms Solak-Edwards said she is "delighted" and "disappointed" at the same time.

She told The Messenger she is looking forward to the meeting with the minister.

Ms Solak-Edwards said: "[Ms Leadsom] was never going to say 'Yes, let's offer free dental care'. The fact she agreed to meet with us is a win because it allows me to speak about things they've not thought about and to test the waters. 

"I'm delighted there were some wins but I'm disappointed we didn't go further."

For information about the campaign go to change.org/p/free-dental-treatment-for-cancer-patients-change-the-law. 

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email jack.tooth@newsquest.co.uk or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.