£9m boost for cancer awareness campaigns

New campaigns aimed at alerting people to signs of cancer will be backed by £9 million of funding, the Government announced today.

Bowel, breast and lung cancer affect more than 120,000 people each year in the UK but chances of survival can be high if the disease is caught early.

Estimates have shown that 10,000 lives could be saved in England each year if survival rates matched the best in Europe.

Health minister Paul Burstow said the £9 million would be available from January for local campaigns aimed at encouraging people to visit their doctor if they have concerns.

A total of 59 campaigns will focus on breast, bowel or lung cancer, or any combination of the three, depending on the target audience in each region.

Two pilot studies will be set up for bowel cancer to see if a national awareness campaign would be effective.

Local areas will use social marketing to get the message across, including social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

One example of a successful campaign comes from Doncaster and involved a bus stop that made a coughing noise.

It led to an increase in the number of people who visited their GP for an X-ray to detect lung cancer.

The number of cases diagnosed in one month also rose by almost 60% (from 32 to 54) compared with the same month in the previous year.

Other data on cancers reveal importance of early diagnosis, with more than 90% of people with bowel cancer living at least five years if they are diagnosed in the early stage compared with 6.6% in the late stage.

Around one in 20 people will get bowel cancer at some point in their life, with more than 38,000 new cases in the UK in 2007 and more than 16,000 deaths.

Around half of people currently survive for five years and about 44% live at least 10 years following diagnosis.

Symptoms can vary but include changes in toilet habit over a four-week period or longer, such as going more often or having diarrhoea.

A key sign is bleeding from the rectum and blood in the stools, but unexplained iron deficiency and unexplained extreme tiredness are also symptoms.

Symptoms of breast cancer include changes to the size and shape of the breasts; and a lump, swelling or thickening in one breast or armpit.

Skin changes can include puckering, dimpling, inflammation or redness of the skin, and there may be changes to the nipple, including rashes or discharge.

Around 46,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK and there are more than 12,000 deaths.

Some 82% of sufferers will be alive after five years and 73% are alive at 10 years.

Lung cancer affects around 40,000 people a year, and kills more than 35,000.

The five-year survival rates are 7% in men and 9% in women, dropping to around 5% a decade after diagnosis.

Lung cancer is so deadly because there are few symptoms in the early stages of the disease, leading to late diagnosis.

Signs include a cough that does not go away after two to three weeks, a long-standing cough that gets worse, or persistent chest infections.

Other symptoms are coughing up blood, unexplained breathlessness that does not go away, and constant tiredness.

People can also lose weight quickly for no apparent reason or suffer chest or shoulder pain.

Mr Burstow said the Government's aim was to save lives and achieve cancer survival rates that were 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."

Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK and Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "Bowel Cancer is the UK's second biggest cancer killer, yet it is highly treatable if diagnosed early.

"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."

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