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Improving cancer early diagnosis and survival in BSW

More people are surviving cancer than ever before, but more lives can be saved by catching more cancers early and starting treatment fast.

Sadly, one in every two people in this country will be told they have cancer at some point in their lives.

The NHS is working hard to save thousands more lives each year by dramatically improving how cancer is diagnosed and treated and there is some great work going on here at BSW ICB to help improve support for people with cancer.

In the next few issues of the Triangle, we’ll be letting you know more about how we are doing this, starting this month with the following updates.

One of the two national ambitions for cancer is to ensure more of those people who are found to have cancer, are diagnosed and treated while it is at an earlier stage, as this means that treatment is often less complex, more successful and people live longer after treatment and with fewer long-term effects.  Across BSW we have been doing a lot of work to help deliver this national ambition, including the following initiatives.

Primary Care cancer projects.  For several years GPs and staff working in primary care have been supported to design and deliver local bespoke cancer programmes to best meet the needs they know exist within the populations they support.  These typically focus on work to improve early diagnosis of cancer by encouraging people to attend when invited for bowel, breast or cervical cancer screening; or to see their GP if they have concerning symptoms that might be a sign of cancer.

Where possible, many of these programmes have a focus on addressing the health inequalities that exist in our communities, which is important as access to care and uptake of screening is lower for certain  more disadvantaged groups than other groups.  Examples of successful recent projects include  

  • Cancer roadshows
  • Contacting those who have not responded to screening invites
  • Language-specific promotional activities, information and leaflets for particular groups targeting Nepali, Polish and Moroccan populations
  • Additional cervical screening sessions outside of normal hours and pop-up cervical screening sessions to better meet the needs of some populations
  • Creating and distributing easy-read information explaining cancer screening for people with learning disabilities
  • Community outreach to people with learning disabilities to explain the reasons for, and benefits of, cancer screening. 

Community Cancer Champions.  Working with Swindon Borough Council BSW ICB has appointed a community cancer champion coordinator who has successfully delivered numerous cancer awareness sessions with local populations in Swindon, aimed at those who tend to be less willing or able to engage with healthcare provision such as cancer screening. The coordinator has recruited and trained over 50 key influencers and leaders as cancer champions within their specific communities with the intention of helping to overcome some of the things that can act as barriers that otherwise can stop people from taking up cancer screening or seeing their GP if they have worrying symptoms. These can include issues such as language, cultural and other barriers.  Activities carried out have so far included:

  • Direct engagement with over 1,500 people
  • 16 community cancer champions recruited in Black and Asian ethnic groups across five different faith groups
  • Eight community cancer champions in voluntary and local authority sectors working with vulnerable people including those with affected by learning disabilities and neurodivergent groups, substance misuse disorder, homelessness and asylum seekers
  • A focus on the more deprived parts of Swindon through Community Cafes and food share locations
  • Over 50 cancer awareness talks and more than 20 events.

The result of all these various initiatives has been an increase in awareness, uptake of cancer screening and people seeking help with possible cancer symptoms, all of which will help to ensure improved early diagnosis and a reduction in inequality.

Targeted lung health checks.  Across Swindon, parts of Bath and, shortly, Trowbridge and parts of Salisbury, targeted lung health checks (TLHC) are being offered to current and ex-smokers aged 55-74. The aim is to identify and treat people with lung cancer even though they may have no obvious symptoms.  People diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those whose cancer is caught late.  Where the lung health check identifies a potential high risk of lung cancer, people are invited to attend a scan to investigate further. 

So far in Swindon and Bath:

  • 25,000 people have been invited
  • 14,000 people have taken up the offer
  • More than 1100 current smokers have received smoking cessation advice
  • 5,000 people have received a low dose CT scan
  • 41 people have been found to have lung cancer, most of them at early stage

This programme will expand in the future to include additional areas of BSW.  More information on the Swindon TLHC programme can be seen in this short video:

The NHS is here for you, and is doing all it can to help find, diagnose and treat cancer early, so you can live your best life.