Suffolk Doesn't Know Cancer Warnings

8 February 2010, 00:00

Apart from finding a lump, most people are unaware if the symptoms of cancer, according to a new survey done here in Suffolk.

Anglia Cancer Network's behind the research, it says more needs to be done to raise awareness of the warning signs.

1 in 3 people in Britain are likely to develop cancer in their lifetime, and early reporting of cancer symptoms is vital for successful treatment. Early diagnosis makes it much more likely an individual will survive.

With the intention of diagnosing and treating cancers in the UK more much earlier as in other European countries, Anglia Cancer Network commissioned a new survey which has revealed low awareness of cancer symptoms amongst people in the region.   A total of 3799 interviews were carried out in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2009, out of a total population of 2.7 million living  in the Anglia Cancer Network area which includes Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Peterborough and North Bedfordshire.   

The survey is part of a wider national awareness and early diagnosis campaign being undertaken by Anglia Cancer Network which is also co-ordinating an audit of new cancer diagnosis identified in primary care and looking at the stage at which patients are identified as having cancer,

The Anglia Cancer Network has commissioned reports for all 6 PCTs in the area to help plan local campaigns for improving cancer awareness and identify those communities within the PCTs where targeted campaigns are most needed and likely to have the greatest impact

The survey found that the most commonly recognised symptom of cancer was a lump (65%). In addition, 72% of females recognised a lump as a cancer symptom, but only 58% of men.  However less than one in three people identified other cancer symptoms including bleeding (24%), mole (15%) and difficulty swallowing (2%).

Respondents were asked how long they would wait before seeking guidance from a doctor about cancer symptoms.   87% indicated that  they would approach their GP within a week for unexplained bleeding but only 44% would approach their GP within a week for a cough or hoarseness and 38% for unexplained weight loss.

Only one in four people in our region said it might be difficult getting an early appointment with a GP, compared to 4 out of ten people nationally. Nearly one in four locally were worried about wasting the doctor’s time.

Both local and national surveys suggest that public knowledge of cancer symptoms is relatively low and that further campaigning work needs to be done to improve peoples’ awareness of symptoms of potential cancer. If people recognize the symptoms they are more likely to seek early help.

Dr Gina Radford Public Health Consultant and Adviser to the Anglia Cancer Network said : “We welcome the findings of the Anglia Cancer Network survey. It is the first of its kind in Anglia.  The survey has demonstrated that while people are aware of the significance of tumours and swellings, awareness was relatively low for some of the other symptoms associated with cancer. This gives us an opportunity to look at raising awareness of the symptoms of cancer – as early diagnosis and treatment makes a positive outcome much more likely for people suffering from cancer.”

You can hear from a Hadleigh Mum who had bladder cancer, in the news on Heart this morning.