Andrew Selous MP supports Houghton Regis woman’s campaign to make children aware of the importance of early detection of cancer

Hansard reads as follows:

  • Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)

    I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on an excellent speech on this important subject.

    When I was visiting one of my local schools a week ago, I was handed a copy of all the subjects it teaches in its PHSE syllabus. I must say that I was impressed: it is a sensible, measured group of subjects, all dealing with issues that young people need to get to grips with, which will hugely help them as they embark on adult life.

    I do not intend to speak for long, but I will talk about one specific issue I would like to see addressed in PHSE education. I will do so as a result of having been visited by one of my constituents, Denise Coates from Houghton Regis, who is a cancer survivor and an ambassador on the issue for the Luton and Dunstable hospital—perhaps the best-performing hospital in the country. As a cancer survivor, Miss Coates is passionate about the early diagnosis of cancer, something that I note absolutely fits with the priorities of the Department of Health and Social Care and its new 28-day target to diagnose cancer.

    On the list of PHSE subjects, which I got from one of my local upper schools, I was pleased to see that children are taught “What is cancer?” That is an excellent first step. We know that around 2 million people are living with cancer in our country; in my clinical commissioning group area, Bedfordshire, there are about 2,300 cancer cases and 960 cancer deaths per year. Denise Coates has a simple and straightforward request, which, if we are already teaching children about what cancer is in PHSE, it is possible, practical and extremely worthwhile to grant: that children be taught about the importance of early detection of cancer for themselves and to spread that learning within their families. That is potentially life-saving. All of us in this room will have lost family members to cancer. I lost my stepsister, who had four children, at the age of 49 and my mother died of cancer when she was 66. I know I am not unusual in this room.

    We know that the golden key to cancer is early detection. If we teach that to our children, both girls and boys, when they are young, they have no embarrassment about examining their own bodies and know what to look out for. If they take that message home to their families and ensure their families do likewise, we can do much better. We know there is a particular issue, for example, with many in the Asian community in this country presenting late for cancer. That is tragic, because sometimes it will be too late—the saddest words in the English language. That is something we could prevent.​

    I have a very simple request. I have written to the Department of Health and Social Care, as a member of the Select Committee on Health, to seek its support on the issue. I implore the Minister to listen to my representations this morning. I say to the schools in my constituency and in every constituency up and down this country, “If you are already telling children about cancer, just go that extra step. Talk to them about the incredible importance of early detection. It is life-saving. It could save their lives or their family members’ lives.” I pay tribute to my constituent Denise Coates, who first brought the issue to my attention. I am doing my part this morning to further her campaign.