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Programme launched to improve fast referral of cancer

Under a "National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative" (NAEDI), launched by the Department of Health last week, work is already underway in the UK to improve public awareness and fast referral of cancer, with pilot schemes in 20 primary care trusts (PCTs) run by the Improvement Foundation.

The Improvement Foundation is working with 20 PCTs in 60 specific communities. The first wave of the two-year programme will be completed in September 2009; the second wave continues until August 2010.

Focused on early presentation of lung, breast and bowel cancer, the aim is to increase the number of people seeking advice, and encourage them to seek treatment earlier. As part of this, the PCT teams identify and deliver locally tailored ways of raising awareness about the risk factors and the benefits of earlier diagnosis.

Through this programme, the Improvement Foundation supports local people in deprived areas, raising their expectations and helping them to drive improvement in their own communities, working closely with local clinicians and voluntary agencies.

Early results indicate there has been a statistically significant increase in referrals via the two week system for all three cancers. This is likely to be as a result of increased numbers of people with symptoms suggestive of cancer presenting to general practice, having been stimulated to do so in the community. These earlier presentations will result in lives saved.

Improvement Foundation

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"The above initiative is good, but it will be better for people to know the signs and symptoms of each cancer (lung, breast and bowel). On noticing any of the symptoms they might take it seriously enough to see the GP in good time. Some form of campaign in the form of posters, leaflets and advice in hospitals, clinics and newspapers will help as well." - Maryam Omitogun, Southwark