Be clear on cancer campaign

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Following on from the initial success of a pilot campaign in the East of England last year, the Government is today launching a new ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign nationally to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Public awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer is low. But spotting the signs early and getting medical advice could save people’s lives.

Bowel cancer affects 33,000 people every year in England with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55. It affects both men and women and is the second biggest cancer killer, responsible for more than 13,000 deaths a year. In 2008 there were around 3730 cases of bowel cancer in the East of England alone.

The campaign was first piloted in the East of England and South West in January 2011. The results of the pilot showed that campaign recognition was high at 75% across both regions and was overwhelmingly believed to be an important one (96% of the public and 89% of GPs). In both regions more people went to see their GP with bowel cancer symptoms, with nearly a 50% increase in people over the age of 50 presenting with the symptoms used in the campaign.

Featuring real GPs, the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ bowel cancer campaign will encourage people who have had blood in their poo or loose poo for more than three weeks to see their doctor. The new adverts aim to make people aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer and make it easier for them to discuss this with their GP.

If England’s bowel cancer survival rates matched the best in Europe an additional 1,700 lives would be saved every year.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: “No one likes talking about their poo – it’s embarrassing. But bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer so we need to get over the embarrassment and talk to someone about it.

“The “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign uses simple messages to make people aware of the key symptoms of bowel cancer and to give them the confidence to talk to their GP if they notice the symptoms.

“No matter how embarrassing it is, talking to your GP can help save your life.”

Dr Ewen Cameron, consultant gastroenterologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said:

“The two most common symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in the poo and loose poo.

“Although the symptoms are always a bit embarrassing and no one likes to talk about it, you can rest assured that your doctor has seen it all before and you’ll certainly not be wasting anyone’s time.

“Even if you have one or more of these symptoms the chances are that you don’t have bowel cancer, but it’s best to be safe as we don’t want to miss it.

“If you have bowel cancer and it’s caught early, more than 90% of people will be cured. If bowel cancer is diagnosed late this drops to just 6% of people surviving for 5 years. So visit your doctor: it could save your life.”

For further information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer visit

Issued by Central Office of Information on behalf of Department of Health

For further information, local statistics, case studies in other areas or interviews with spokespeople please contact: Trudi Howe or Liz Trott at COI East on 01223 370782/787