UK Government

Department of Health (National): New campaign to alert people to early signs of cancer

Press Release   •   Sep 21, 2010 12:30 BST

A new campaign that will alert people to the early signs of cancer and encourage them to get checked out will be launched in January next year, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow announced today.

The campaign will consist of 59 local campaigns focussing on the three big killers - breast, bowel and lung cancer. Local areas have been given a share of £9 million for their campaigns.

At the same time as running these local projects, the Department of Health will be trialling, in two regions, centrally-led campaign activity to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and to encourage early presentation. Subject to evaluation, the campaign will be introduced nationally.

Examples of local activity include:

·        NHS Leeds aims to reduce mortality from lung cancer in people aged over 50 through social marketing and community engagement. For example, they plan to advertise on bus routes in key areas and provide community health professionals with branded items directing people to new services, such as self referral chest X-Ray.

·        NHS Brighton and Hove whose one and five year survival rates for colorectal cancer are well below the national average, will raise awareness among a target audience of the fact that a change on bowel habits is a sign of colorectal cancer.

  • NHS Liverpool has cancer mortality rates (under 75) 38 per cent higher than the English average and significant variations exist across the city; lung, colorectal and breast cancer account for nearly half of all cancer deaths in Liverpool. The aim of the project is to increase earlier presentation of the signs and symptoms of these cancers among prioritised groups through the application of social marketing principles.

Being diagnosed at an early stage of the disease increases the chance of being successfully treated. Estimates show that 10,000 lives could be saved in England each year if survival rates matched the best in Europe.

The Government believes that much of this gap in survival rates could be filled if we could get cancers diagnosed earlier. For example, more than 90 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at the early stage survive for at least 5 years compared with only 6.6 per cent of those diagnosed at the late stage.

Paul Burstow said:

“Cancer affects us all. We all have a story of someone we love battling the disease. Our aim is simple — we want to save many more lives and achieve cancer survival rates among the best in the world.

“In England we are lagging behind European countries when it comes to the common but big killer cancers such as breast, bowel and lung.

“The NHS is spending at European levels but still not delivering European cancer survival rates. We know that generally the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook. That’s why our campaign will help people to be more alert to the early signs and symptoms of cancer and encourage them to seek medical advice as soon as possible.

"We want to concentrate on what is most important to patients and their families — cancer outcomes. Alongside the Cancer Drug Fund and review of the Cancer Reform Strategy this will help achieve that.”

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive, Bowel Cancer UK;  and Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive, Beating Bowel Cancer said:

"We warmly welcome today's announcement by the government of funding for new campaigns to support early diagnosis of bowel  cancer at both national and PCT level.

“Bowel cancer is the UK's second biggest cancer killer, yet it is highly treatable if diagnosed early. Currently over half of bowel cancer patients are diagnosed with advanced cancer, often because they are unaware of the symptoms and present to their GP too late. By increasing awareness of the disease and encouraging people to act on their symptoms, these regional and national campaigns have the potential to save thousands of lives."

Cancer Research UK's executive director of communications and information Sarah Lyness said:

"We've made great strides in improving cancer survival with rates doubling over the last 40 years. But we often diagnose cancer late in this country so we welcome this campaign to raise awareness of the signs of key cancers and to encourage people to seek help if they notice unusual changes.

"Encouraging people to seek help from their doctor if they suspect cancer is the crucial first step in getting a speedy cancer diagnosis. GPs also need to recognise symptoms and refer for diagnosis appropriately and treatment must follow as quickly as possible. We hope this campaign will encourage people to get that little niggle checked out. It could save their life."

Notes to editors

For further information contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221

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