People with persistent stomach problems living in the South West are being urged to get checked for cancer as part of the NHS and Public Health England’s ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign.
TV adverts and social media posts in the region will urge people to speak to their GP if they have a symptom including diarrhoea, bloating or discomfort in the tummy area for three weeks or more as they could be a sign of cancer.
Figures show that over 9,500 of people are diagnosed with abdominal cancer in the South West every year, which includes ovarian, kidney and bowel cancers.
More than four in ten people would leave it longer to get health advice than they normally would have before the coronavirus outbreak, however delaying can have serious consequences for some cancers.
While there was a dip in referrals for these cancers at the peak of the first COVID wave, more people are now coming forward for checks.
Hospitals have put extensive measures in place so that patients can get safely tested and treated, including by rolling out COVID protected hubs across the country and introducing treatment swaps that require fewer trips to hospital and have less of an effect on cancer patients’ immune systems.
Dr Liz Mearns, Medical Director System Improvement & Professional Standards NHS England and NHS Improvement South West said:
“If you have persistent stomach trouble please talk to your GP. You are not a burden and cancer is easier to treat when it is caught at an earlier stage and so coming forward for a check could save your life. Local health services have plans in place so that people can continue to get tests and treatment safely.”
Bristol patient Bryony Thomas who has been treated for pancreatic cancer said: “Abdominal cancers can have vague symptoms that are easy to dismiss, or you might feel embarrassed about. For about three years before my diagnosis I had increasing fatigue, and for a few months before I lost my appetite, lost a few pounds in weight, had increasingly loose and pale stools. My advice is don’t ignore this stuff folks.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England said:
“Far too many of us ignore what our body is trying to tell us. We say to ourselves it’s nothing really, we don’t want to make a fuss. But if you’re getting persistent stomach problems it may be a sign of cancer, possibly bowel, kidney or ovarian cancer. It’s so important you find out for sure as early as possible. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Be positive, take control of your health, get in touch with your GP. Our NHS has adapted its services and can see you safely.”
The new drive is part of NHS England & Improvement, and Public Health England’s the ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign which looks to address the barriers that are deterring patients from accessing NHS services. The campaign reminds people that the NHS has adapted its services and can still see patients safely.
Visit nhs.uk/cancersymptoms for more information.