Department of Health and Social Care
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First government cancer campaign launched

First government cancer campaign launched

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 27 January 2011

The first ever Government cancer awareness campaign to highlight the early signs and symptoms of bowel cancer is launched today (Monday 31 January), by Health Minister Paul Burstow.

The ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign will initially be piloted in two regions and if successful will be rolled out across the country.

Improving cancer outcomes is a Government priority and the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook. Featuring real GPs encouraging patients to talk to them about changes in their poo, the new adverts aim to make people aware of the early signs of bowel cancer and make it easier for them to discuss this with their GP.

Adverts will appear on TV, radio and in newspapers in the East of England and South West for seven weeks from today (Monday 31 January).

More than 90 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at the early stage survive for at least five years compared with only 6.6 per cent of those diagnosed at the late stage. Ten thousand lives, across all cancers, could be saved each year if England matched the best cancer survival rates in Europe.

Health Minister Paul Burstow said:

“No one likes talking about their poo – it’s embarrassing. But if we see something different and tell our GP it could save our life.

“Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to cancer survival rates and bowel cancer is one of the biggest killers. That’s why the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign uses simple messages to make people aware of the early signs of bowel cancer and to give them the confidence to talk to their GP about them.

“To make sure we get it right, we’re testing this campaign in two regions and, if it works, we’ll roll it out nationally.

"We want to concentrate on what is most important to patients and their families — cancer outcomes. Alongside the Cancer Drugs Fund and the actions outlined in Improving Outcomes - A Strategy for Cancer which is backed by £750 million over four years, this will help achieve that."

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

“We welcome this campaign because spotting cancer early saves lives. Most changes in bowel habits probably won’t be cancer but if they are it is much better to be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.

“So if people notice a change that lasts three weeks or more - whether it’s looser poo, bleeding or anything else that is unusual for them - they should report the symptoms to their doctor without further delay.”

Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said:

"The launch of this bowel cancer symptoms awareness campaign is a major step forward in tackling the issue of late diagnosis. By increasing awareness of the disease and encouraging people to act on their symptoms, this campaign has the potential to save thousands of lives."

Deborah Alsina, Chief Executive, Bowel Cancer UK.

“We are delighted to support the launch of the Signs and Symptoms campaign which will feature bowel cancer. Early diagnosis is critical in order to save lives from the disease. It is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, but it shouldn’t be as it is highly treatable if caught early.

“We hope that the campaign will encourage members of the public to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer and act on them right away by making an appointment to see their GP so that the disease can either be ruled out or treated quickly.”

As well as the pilots for a national campaign, £9 million has been made available to fund 59 local cancer awareness campaigns led by the NHS and supported by Cancer research UK. These will target the three biggest killers, bowel, lung and breast cancer. The Government is already providing cutting-edge cancer therapies, through its commitment to invest £50 million in additional cancer drugs until the end of March and from April £200 million per year for a Cancer Drugs Fund until the end of 2013.

Examples of local activity being funded by this campaign 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 in bowel habits is a possible sign of colorectal cancer.

NHS Liverpool has cancer mortality rates (among under 75s) 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.

Notes to Editors

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

2. Campaign materials are available to download at the following password protected FTP site:

username: Be Clear on Cancer

password: d0hbc0c

3. 10,000 lives could be saved each year if survival rates across all cancers matched the best in Europe. Work undertaken by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that 1700 deaths could be avoided each year by bringing bowel cancer survival in this country up to the best in Europe.

4. Advertising for the national pilot campaign has been developed by M&C Saatchi. The pilot campaigns have cost £1.75m in total.

5. £9 million has been allocated to PCTs in 10/11 to run local awareness and early diagnosis initiatives, targeting breast, bowel and lung cancers. There are 59 projects covering 109 PCTs across the country.

6. The campaign programme is part of a broader range of work to improve cancer services and outcomes. For example, in relation to bowel cancer survival rates, the actions include: extending the screening age to 75, introduction of flexible sigmoidoscopy screening at 55, promoting laparoscopic colorectal surgery, a training programme for lower rectal surgery and an enhanced recovery programme.


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221

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