The ‘significant impact’ of cancer education in secondary schools - new report

Posted On: 
19th July 2016

A new report launched by Teenage Cancer Trust at a parliamentary event last week examines the transformative and viable impact of cancer education in secondary schools. 

Roger Daltrey CBE, Honorary Patron of Teenage Cancer Trust and Jane Sutton, Teenage Cancer Trust Ambassador and mother of inspirational teenager Stephen Sutton MBE, joined the charity at a Parliamentary reception last week.

Equipping secondary school students with the knowledge they need to seek help if they need it now, as well as to protect their health in later life, is an opportunity we must embrace. 

Roger Daltrey CBE, Honorary Patron of Teenage Cancer Trust and Jane Sutton, Teenage Cancer Trust Ambassador and mother of inspirational teenager Stephen Sutton MBE, joined the charity at a Parliamentary reception last week.  Together they urged NHS England and Public Health England to roll out a programme of cancer education in secondary schools.

The event saw the launch of Transforming Cancer Knowledge, a report by Teenage Cancer Trust about the vital role education plays in diagnosing cancer in young people sooner. 

Here, Teenage Cancer Trust’s CEO, Siobhan Dunn, explains what the report found and why the charity wants to educate every young person about cancer. 

“Cancer education is vital.  Half of us will get cancer in our lifetimes, yet 40% of cancers in adulthood could be prevented by lifestyle choices.  The new research from the University of Stirling in Teenage Cancer Trust’s report shows that a single cancer education presentation has a significant impact on young people’s recognition of cancer warning signs and risk factors. 

Teenage Cancer Trust’s 16 strong Education team travel the UK to deliver cancer awareness sessions, primarily to Year 10 students.  Every year the team speak to over 100,000 pupils in hundreds of schools across the UK.  These presentations include how cancer starts, early warning signs, cancer treatments and ways to reduce the risk of cancer. 

The evidence speaks for itself – after one session, recognition among young people of signs of cancer such as changes to a mole rose by up to 30%.  And recognition of cancer risks such as being overweight rose by up to 26%.  Importantly, young people went on to share that information with their friends and family, meaning that by educating young people we’re able to spread the prevention message to the older generation as well. 

Encouragingly, prevention is a key focus for the NHS across the UK.  The ‘road map’ for the NHS in England – the NHS Five Year Forward View – calls for a radical upgrade in prevention and public health. 

But it’s not just about prevention.  Young people who have cancer need to be diagnosed more quickly.  We know that 37% of young people with cancer are diagnosed in A&E, compared to just 13% of adults.  And of those, more than a quarter had previously seen their GP with cancer symptoms but had not been referred to a specialist. 

Cancer in young people is rare, and symptoms can easily be mistaken for less serious health problems.  It’s hard for GPs to prioritise the needs of young people given the pressures that they face.  So, by equipping young people with information about the signs, symptoms and risk factors of cancer we can make it easier for them to get the help they need. 

We truly believe that right now, in 2016, we have a unique opportunity to change the health experience of all young people.  Equipping secondary school students with the knowledge they need to seek help if they need it now, as well as to protect their health in later life, is an opportunity we must embrace.  At Teenage Cancer Trust we have the team, the evidence, and the momentum to deliver this. 

The England Cancer Strategy, published in 2015, specifically references Teenage Cancer Trust's education work in its recommendations. We call on NHS England and Public Health England to work with the charity to honour this and deliver cancer education in all secondary schools.

If you want to find out more about how Teenage Cancer Trust supports young people before, during and after cancer, or to invite the Education team to a school near you, then please get in touch.”

You can read the new report here.