A researcher from the University of Stirling is supporting calls from Teenage Cancer Trust for cancer education programmes to be introduced in secondary schools across the UK.
This comes after research led by the health science expert found such education sessions significantly increase students’ knowledge of how to spot the signs of cancer.
The benefits of these sessions have also been highlighted by Jane Sutton, charity patron and mother of the late charity campaigner Stephen Sutton.
Dr Gill Hubbard, Reader in Cancer Care at the University of Stirling, worked with Teenage Cancer Trust to investigate their programme and said: “Tragically, some young people get cancer and incidences of some cancers such as skin cancer in teenagers are rising. We need to educate this group so they are aware of the signs of cancer and have the skills to seek and demand help from doctors early on.
“Cancer is still not talked about enough which means young people are often unsure how to raise the subject when they are worried something might be wrong. We found that Teenage Cancer Trust's education programme in schools raises young people's awareness and knowledge of cancer by a third, with teenagers successfully identifying a number of everyday risks including sunburn.
“Importantly, we also found young people are nearly three times more likely to talk about cancer with their parents after the subject has been tackled in a 50 minute education session at school. We want to empower young people so they feel able to talk to parents and their doctors if they notice that something might be wrong and help reduce the taboo around cancer.
“Moving forward, we want to see a national cancer education programme in all of our schools. Our research backs up the views of Jane Sutton and Teenage Cancer Trust that continued focus in this area will help us spot childhood cancer sooner.”
Dr Hubbard’s research demonstrating the value and impact of education work was published in Pycho-Oncology, the Journal of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Dimensions of Cancer.
Gill Hubbard is a Reader in cancer care at the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of research in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Dr Hubbard is a health sociologist and is leading the first evaluation of a UK adolescent cancer awareness intervention and the first evaluation of the use of cardiac rehabilitation services for cancer survivors.