‘Inspect your bits ‘n bobbins’: Tracey Crouch on why going public on her cancer was important

Former sports minister says her Twitter post led to someone getting their own cancer diagnosed

Tracey Crouch with short hair

Tracey Crouch: ‘If you have a platform, like we do as politicians, it is important to use it … because it might encourage other people to go and do something that they weren’t going to go and do.’
Photograph: Twitter

The former sports minister Tracey Crouch has revealed that a member of the public discovered they had cancer after she had publicly disclosed her own diagnosis and called on people to get themselves checked.

Earlier this year, Crouch announced she had breast cancer and said she intended to “go into this challenge with my studs up”, urging others to inspect their “bits ’n bobbins” and seek medical help if they spotted anything irregular.

One person who took Crouch’s advice after reading her Twitter post in June subsequently contacted the Conservative MP from hospital to thank her, saying they had just undergone surgery for cancer following a diagnosis.

Tracey Crouch

A bit of personal news…
Unfortunately I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught early & am in the hands of the excellent team at @MTWnhs. Full statement below. 1/ pic.twitter.com/2xVZwLUSQr

June 24, 2020

Crouch, 45, who began chemotherapy last week after unveiling a new shorter haircut on Twitter, told the Guardian’s Politics Weekly podcast, in her first interview since beginning treatment: “I’m really pleased that I did put into my statement about saying to people go and get yourself checked out because I have had a couple of emails since from people saying that because of that they did and, in fact, one person … actually emailed me while they were in hospital having just had surgery.

“So, I have always thought that if you have a platform, like we do as politicians, that it is important to use it, even if it provides a little bit of discomfort to yourself, because it might encourage other people to go and do something that they weren’t going to go and do.”

Asked if that person specifically went to get checked out because of her post, Crouch said: “Well, that’s what they were kind enough to say which … was nice. No one wants to go through this in public. It is something that actually you would quite like to hide away and do but when you are a public person, like a politician, you’re obviously going to go through various changes. One minute I will have hair and the next minute I won’t. I’m using our local NHS services, I live in my constituency. The people that are in the oncology unit will be my constituents.

“People are going to see you and spot you and so, therefore, we wanted to go public and make it very much a part of normality. I want to still be seen working, I want people to also not be afraid to ask me how I’m doing. And so, actually, having an open conversation about it was something that we took a proactive decision to do.”

The MP for Chatham and Aylesford, in Kent, who resigned as sports minister in 2018 in protest at delays in the government imposing curbs to fixed-odds betting terminals, said her diagnosis was unexpected, given she had always considered herself healthy and active. “But I found a lump, I got it checked out quickly and it was diagnosed quickly and treated brilliantly by [the] local hospital. So, had my first chemo session on Thursday,” she said.

“Everyone says about tiredness and I thought, well as someone who works in politics with a young child, I’m always tired so this is not going to be anything new. But I have to say, it’s a different level of tiredness. Felt like I’d been run over by a bus yesterday morning. But so far so good. Eight sessions in total. One down, seven to go.”

Tracey Crouch

Freddie started it with a snip….#chemocrop pic.twitter.com/GUDSddMmGO

September 2, 2020

Research published in July showed that about 3,500 people in England could die in the next five years of one of the four main cancers as a result of delays in diagnosis because of Covid-19. Crouch said she was concerned about differing levels of service in the country, adding: “I feel fortunate to be in an area where we’ve had a good continuation of our cancer services and I feel desperately sorry for those where they’re in areas that haven’t.”