West Ham MP Lyn Brown urges us to make time for cancer screening

Lyn Brown MP

Lyn Brown MP - Credit: Archant

Last week I spoke in an especially poignant Debate in memory of Sophie Jones, a beautiful, vibrant, ambitious, energetic young woman who tragically died, aged 19, from cervical cancer. The Debate was triggered by members of the public signing an e-petition, which had the biggest number of signatures, to date. Sophie’s story clearly touched many hearts.

Regular readers will know that cancer has hurt my family. I lost Mum to the undetected return of her breast cancer, just one of the reasons I pay so much attention to cancer treatment and care. We have lower incidences of cancer in Newham, but more of us die from it.

Too many of us wait too long before seeing the doctor with that cough, or lump, or back pain. We ‘assume’ it will go away. We don’t like bothering the doctor with something silly, or trouble our boss by asking for time off work. It’s not that ‘essential.’ There’s always something more important, something else we should spend time doing.

This stoicism costs Newham lives. If we’re honest with ourselves, it isn’t the time factor, nor just the inconvenience that stops us. There is also the tiny voice of fear. We don’t want to face the fact something is wrong. I am just as guilty as the next person.

Community Links, one of our fabulous Newham charities, works hard to get us to mend our ways. It goes into our schools to talk to our children about the symptoms of cancer and the need to self-examine and screen. Our children bring those messages home and talk to parents about the need to be pro-active about healthcare. This approach works and has been instrumental in driving up screening rates in the borough.

Although there have been major breakthroughs in the effectiveness of medicine and screening over recent decades, we must vigilantly look after our own health. The message from the Debate was clear. Sometimes, we must put ourselves first and make time for those annoying cancer screening tests we’re offered.

To steal a phrase from a very cheesy advert, “Look after yourself. You’re worth it!”