The first ever government sponsored cancer awareness campaign to highlight the early signs and symptoms of bowel cancer is launched today, by the United Kingdom?s 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.

It is estimated that about 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 1,700 deaths could be avoided each year by bringing bowel cancer survival in the United Kingdom up to the best in Europe.

As part of the campaign, which was developed by M & C Saatchi and has cost ?1.75m in total, adverts will appear on television, radio and in newspapers in the East of England and South West for seven weeks from today.

More than 90% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at the early stage survive for at least five years compared with only 6.6% 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.

Advertisement #3

Commenting on the campaign and Health Minister Paul Burstow noted: ?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. However, 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.?

?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,? Sarah Lyness,
Cancer Research UK?s executive director of communications and information, said.

?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.?

“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,? Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer noted.

Says 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 recognize 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.?

Improving services and outcomes
The campaign is part of a broader range of activities 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.

Local NHS campaign activities
In addition to 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.

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 those younger than 75 years of ages) 38% 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 prioritized groups through the application of social marketing principles.

For more information:
Signs and symptoms of bowel cancer

Advertisement #5