A new health check project designed to improve cancer symptom awareness and help-seeking in Yorkshire’s deprived communities has been launched today (Thursday, January 18).
Researchers from Cardiff University, funded by a £486,000 award from Yorkshire Cancer Research, are carrying out a trial to find out if an interactive online health check questionnaire can increase early diagnosis in areas of South and West Yorkshire. Early diagnosis can lead to better outcomes, including improved rates of survival. The health checks will also be carried out in similar areas in South Wales.
The trial will focus on people living in areas of high deprivation because cancer outcomes tend to be worse in these communities 1. The reasons behind this include higher levels of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, poor knowledge and awareness of symptoms, and barriers in access to healthcare.
These factors often lead to diagnosis through emergency routes, such as A&E or emergency GP referral. Patients diagnosed with cancer through an emergency route are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage, which can mean that treatment options are limited and chances of survival are lower 2.
The health checks will be delivered by trained lay advisors in towns and cities including Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield. Members of the public aged over 40 will be recruited from a variety of settings, including community venues, GP surgeries and pharmacies.
Supported by a lay advisor, people who take part in the health check will be asked questions about their background, lifestyle and health. They will then be provided with a summary page which colour codes their responses using a traffic light system (red, amber and green) to highlight areas where action or advice should be taken.
Louise Padgett, Health Check Advisor, said: “Participants in the study will be asked to complete three questionnaires – one when recruited, one two weeks later and then another six months later. We will ask them about their knowledge of symptoms as well as some background health information and their readiness to seek medical help and advice.
“The questionnaires will then be analysed to find out if the checks have increased symptom awareness. One to one interviews will also be carried out to learn more about how the health checks work in practice.”
The research is being led by health psychologist Dr Kate Brain, Screening, Prevention & Early Diagnosis Lead at Cardiff University’s Division of Population Medicine.
She said: “The health check has already been tested to make sure it is acceptable to people and that it has the potential to improve cancer awareness and increase motivation to seek help. The trial in Yorkshire and Wales will now determine its effectiveness, and we are delighted to have the opportunity to take forward the project thanks to funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.”
- The health check team will be at Intake Community Library, Doncaster, today, Goldthorpe Community Shop, Barnsley, on Monday, January 22, and Athersley Community Shop, Barnsley, on Thursday, January 25.
1 NCIN, Cancer by Deprivation in England 1996 – 2011, http://www.ncin.org.uk/about_ncin/cancer_by_deprivation_in_england.
2 Public Health England, National Cancer Intelligence Network: cancer survival in England by stage, 2012, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cancer-survival-in-england-by-stage.
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter