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Campaign to turn the 'Big C' into a 'small c'

The ‘small c’ campaign starts with some good news about cancer: the fact that most people survive the disease, when it is detected at an early stage. For these survivors, stopping cancer before it had time to spread to other parts of the body turned the ‘Big C’ into a ‘small c’ – a serious but not fatal disease.  The objective of the ‘small c’ campaign is to make this the experience of a growing proportion of people diagnosed with cancer.

As part of the campaign, trained community workers and volunteers are talking to people face-to-face about how to spot cancer early – by recognising the warning signs, acting on them promptly, and taking advantage of free cancer screening tests.  People are being encouraged to share this potentially life-saving information with friends and loved ones.

It's normal to tell the GP about any unexplained change in the body

“Get to know your body and what’s normal for you, and tell your GP about any unexplained change, without delay,” advises GP, Dr Lucia Grun.  “It may be mild, and it's probably nothing serious, but it could be the warning sign of cancer that saves your life.  Most people survive early stage cancer, but sadly that's not true of late stage cancer, so if it is cancer, seeing your GP promptly really could save your life. 

“You’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting a symptom checked out early.  We would expect even a mild symptom to clear up in a few weeks, so if it doesn’t, your GP will want to know.  They won’t want you to wait for the symptom to get worse. 

“Also, it’s worth remembering that you can ask to see a male or female GP, and you’re very welcome to bring someone in with you when you have your appointment.” 

9 out of 10 cancers are diagnosed in people aged 50 and over

The ‘small c’ is focusing on people aged 50 and over, who are the age group most at risk of getting cancer – accounting for almost nine out of ten cases of the disease.  The campaign is raising awareness of two simple rules to follow when any unexplained changes occur in the body.  Particular emphasis is being placed on bowel and breast cancer, which are survived by 9 out of 10 people, when diagnosed at an early stage, but by only 1 out of 10 people, when diagnosed at a late stage. The campaign is also targeting lung cancer, which is far more likely to be survived when diagnosed at an early stage, than at a late stage.

UK cancer survival lags comparable European countries

The ‘small c’ campaign recognises that with the exception of breast cancer, improvements in UK cancer survival are not closing the gap with comparable countries.  While most early stage cancers are survivable, too many British people are still being diagnosed at an advanced stage of the disease, when it is difficult, if not impossible, to cure.  If British cancer survival rates equalled those of Sweden, the best in Europe, up to 11,500 additional people would survive each year, primarily through earlier diagnosis.  In London, it is estimated that there could be 1000 avoidable deaths from cancer each year.

Warning signs of cancer

Act straight away on any unexplained symptom below:

Act after three weeks of any unexplained symptom below:

Warning signs of bowel cancer

Warning signs of breast cancer

Warning signs of lung cancer

Camden residents are being advised to make an appointment to see their GP straight away if they have any of these possible warning signs of cancer.

Free cancer screening tests help detect cancer early

The campaign is also raising awareness of the importance of free bowel and breast screening tests in helping to spot cancer early, before symptoms develop, and sometimes even in time to prevent cancer developing in the first place.  

Take advantage of breast screening

Breast screening (breast x-rays) helps to spot breast cancer early, before a lump can be felt or seen.  Women aged 50-70 receive an invitation every three years.  Women aged 70+, or who haven’t had a breast x-ray in the last three years, should speak to their GP about booking an appointment. Women are also strongly advised to keep checking their breasts between x-rays.

Take advantage of bowel screening

Bowel screening helps to spot bowel cancer early, before symptoms have developed, and sometimes, even in time to prevent the cancer from developing in the first place. People aged 60-74 receive a bowel screening kit in the post every two years. People aged 75 and over, or haven’t received a kit in the last two years, are advised to call 0800 707 6060 to request one.