National bowel cancer ads backed by £8.5m

A national awareness campaign to encourage patients to talk to their GP about possible signs of bowel cancer will be backed by £8.5m in funding, the DoH has announced.

Mr Burstow: 'Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to your chance of survival' (Photograph: DoH)
Mr Burstow: 'Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to your chance of survival' (Photograph: DoH)

The 'Be Clear on Cancer' campaign was first announced by NHS medical director Professor Bruce Keogh last month in a letter to PCTs.

The DoH has now formally unveiled the ad campaign, the government's first for bowel cancer, which will be introduced across England from January as part of an £8.5m package.

Practices were previously told to expect a 50% increase in patients presenting with symptoms, equivalent to around three additional patients each month.

It followed a successful pilot in the South West and East of England that led to a 48% increase in people visiting their GP with symptoms. Urgent referrals to hospitals rose 32% in six months.

The department will also run a regional campaign on the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, which causes 28,000 deaths a year in the UK.

The local TV and radio ads, to begin in October, will encourage people with a cough lasting more than three weeks to visit their GP.

Care services minister Paul Burstow MP (Lib, Sutton and Cheam) said: 'Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to your chance of survival. Results from our regional bowel cancer campaign shows campaigns really work to raise awareness and get people to their GPs.'

The chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar, said: 'We very much welcome the extra money to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of bowel, lung and a range of other cancers.

'The key reason our cancer survival lags behind the best in the world is that we diagnose the disease late.'

In a joint statement, the heads of charities Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer said early diagnosis was vital. 'We know 90% of people will survive if diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease. The tragedy however is that only 9% are.'

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