We’ve talked about why it’s important for us to build relationships with politicians before. It’s because we need to highlight at the highest levels the inequalities men with and at risk of prostate cancer face – and the changes that need to be made. This is crucial if we want to achieve our goal of improving care and support for men with prostate cancer. And Movember is a fantastic opportunity to make that happen.
The MPs who take part in Movember not only raise money for the cause, but also act as awareness raising champions in the halls of power and in their constituencies – spreading the important health messages behind the campaign throughout the month.
This year Jason McCartney MP, Mike Penning MP and Jake Berry MP bravely grew moustaches, as did Assembly Member Carl Sargeant in Wales and Liam McArthur MSP in Scotland. We were very pleased that the minister with responsibility for cancer services, Jane Ellison MP, once again supported us by attending our photo-call in Westminster at the end of the month. Mo Sistas Luciana Berger MP, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP and Fiona Mactaggart MP also joined us on the day, and Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley in West Yorkshire, raised a fuzzy-faced question in Prime Minister’s Questions –the half an hour on a Wednesday afternoon when the PM sets aside time to answer questions from MPs.
This year, Jason asked: “Every hour one man dies from prostate cancer in the UK. Testicular cancer is now the most common cancer in men aged 25 to 49 in the UK and on average 12 men in the UK die from suicide. Will you join me in congratulating all the men who have taken part in the Movember campaign to raise these men’s health issues and will the Government continue to fund them and support these vital men’s health issues?”
And David Cameron replied: “I certainly join you in praising all those have taken part in Movember. You are sporting a pretty magnificent specimen. I have to say (Mr Berry) looks like he’s about to star in a Cheech and Chong movie – it’s absolutely remarkable. In terms of my protection team, they have done incredible work and they’re raising a lot of money. I’m only sorry that I can’t seem to be able to join you but the causes are important – particularly these cancers that really need to raise awareness, improve treatments and save lives.”
At our photo-call in Westminster, Prostate Cancer UK volunteer, Nick Harding, caught up with Jason McCartney for a quick chat about why he takes part in Movember.
Jason: “I’ve been involved with Prostate Cancer UK almost since I started here in Parliament. About five years ago, a good friend of mine called Des Latham died from prostate cancer. He inspired me to change direction in my career as a broadcaster with ITV Yorkshire and to run for parliament. Des was ill for about six months before he passed away in his mid-fifties. He should have had many years ahead of him. This is a very personal issue for me, but obviously some of my constituents are affected by prostate cancer too.
“Men are notoriously bad at recognising symptoms of poor health and going to the GP. We can actually save lives by spreading the word about the risk factors for prostate cancer, as well as by campaigning for certain cancer drugs to be licensed and for more research into different types of treatment.
“These days people are hearing about a lot of health issues. I mean, there was World Aids Day recently and there’s a very high profile campaign running in the fight against HIV. And a lot of women’s cancer charities run really, really successful campaigns on the importance of early screening, whether it’s for cervical cancer or breast cancer. As I said, I think men have been historically bad at recognising symptoms, going to see their GP and getting tested. So, just by making people more aware of prostate cancer, and actually realising what a big killer it is, we can fundraise for more research and help people save lives.
“By taking part in Movember, I’ve probably had 50-60 conversations about men’s health issues and prostate cancer that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It all starts when people ask: ‘Why are you growing a moustache?’. I raise money as well but for me, it really is more about starting conversations, making people more aware of what prostate cancer is and how many men it affects every year.
“This year, I think the best mo in Westminster was Mike Penning’s – Home Office and Justice Minister. I had a meeting with him recently and he had big, hairy chops. He looked like something from the 1800s, and he carried it off really well. It’s great that someone in the Ministerial team has taken part. There’s also my good pal Jake Berry, from Rossendale and Darwen, just over the Pennines from me. As the Prime Minister said in response to my question in PMQs, he looks like a ‘Cheech and Chong’ character. I’ve just looked online and he does – he looks like a bandito!”