Cancer awareness campaigns are to be given a massive cash injection by the government in a bid to improve early diagnosis rates and bring treatment outcomes on par with the country’s European peers.

The government announced this week that it is has put up a £9-million pot to fuel a major new campaign - to launch in January 2011 - to alert people in England to the early signs of breast, bowel and lung cancer and the need to seek immediate medical advice for prompter diagnosis.

Whilst significant improvements in cancer survival have been made, the UK is still lagging behind many of its European counterparts, and as the Department of Health itself points out estimates indicate that 10,000 lives could be saved in England alone each year if survival rates matched the best in Europe.

A primary reason for this is late diagnosis of the disease. For example, while over 90% of patients diagnosed with bowel cancer in the early stages are still alive after five years, just 6.6% of those diagnosed at the late stage survive the same time period, illustrating the huge effect on treatment outcome earlier detection of disease can have.

The new campaign consists of 59 different regional projects designed to raise awareness of the three biggest cancer killers, as well as a potential national project for bowel cancer.

NHS Leeds for one, is planning on reducing mortality from lung cancer in people over 50 through social marketing sites, presumably Facebook and Twitter, and community engagement, while NHS Brighton and Hove will tackle its poor one and five year survival rates for colorectal cancer by informing a target audience that a change in bowel habits is an important indicator for the disease. 

Saving more lives

Health Minister Paul Burstow noted that the NHS is spending at European levels but still not delivering European cancer survival rates, and he said the campaign’s aim is simple: “We want to save many more lives and achieve cancer survival rates among the best in the world”.

Improving cancer outcomes is seemingly high on the new coalition government’s agenda, and it is hoped that measures such as the new Cancer Drug Fund and review of the Cancer Reform Strategy will help paint a better picture for patients with the disease and save more lives.