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Cancer

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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26

asked the Minister of Health if he will, as a means of combating cancer, take steps to give powers to local authorities to register all persons suffering from this disease; and if he will promote schemes to educate patients through general practitioners and other means on the best form of treatment.

Hospitals boards are already encouraged to arrange for the registration of all cases treated in hospital, to provide information about incidence and results of treatment. My right hon. Friend has already invited local authorities to promote educational schemes, in co-operation with hospital authorities and general practitioners.

As many people who suffer from this disease are afraid to go to their doctors in the initial stages, would the Minister carry on a campaign, through medical officers of health, to encourage these people to come along at a stage when doctors can render them some assistance, rather than leave it too long, when it is beyond the power of a doctor to assist?

I share the hon. Member's concern about this grave disease, but I cannot accept that people are more likely to go to the medical officer of health to report their condition than they are to their own general practitioner. In this matter we are working on the advice of the Standing Advisory Committee on Cancer and Radiotherapy, and we are carrying out a scheme recommended by them. This is not an infectious disease and does not come in the same category as notifiable diseases to the local authority.

I am not suggesting that the patient should go to the medical officer of health, but that the medical officer of health should carry out a campaign on this subject.

An educational campaign has been approved by my right hon. Friend.

28

asked the Minister of Health what experiments have taken place in the use of the rays given off by the cobalt bomb as a means of treating deep-seated cancer; and if he will make a statement on this subject.

The experimental stage in the use of radio-active cobalt for the treatment of cancer has now passed. It is being used as a substitute for radium in the treatment of certain forms of cancer, particularly the deep-seated forms, in four radiotherapy centres in this country. Radio-active cobalt is more intensely radio-active than radium and makes treatment shorter and more efficient.

Seeing that this instrument, which could be used for the destruction of human life, can now be used for the healing of this terrible disease, will the Minister see that no expense is spared in carrying on these experiments? Will she issue a report on the progress that is being made in the experiments which have been undertaken?

This has got beyond the experimental stage. The hon. Member will know that the initial unit was at University College Hospital and that there are now units in operation at Sheffield and Leeds. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not mind my pointing out that the word he used in his Question, namely, "bomb," is a misnomer, for no explosion takes place, and the use of this term has terrifying associations for the patients. I hope the hon. Gentleman will drop the use of it.