Patient Advocate Launches Scotland's Detect Cancer Early Plan

Lung cancer survivor Eric Byrne has given his backing to a new programme to help increase the early detection of cancer in Scotland by 25 per cent.

Eric Byrne was joined by fellow cancer survivors and Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon at the launch of the Detect Cancer Early initiative, at Springburn Health Centre in Glasgow.

This drive is part of a £30 million Detect Cancer Early plan which is set to improve cancer survival rates by increasing the number of Scots diagnosed in the earliest stages of the disease. The money will help to increase diagnostic and screening capacity, support rapid diagnosis and treatment, increase the rate of early referral, and support additional treatments being introduced across the country.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Ms Sturgeon said: "The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully. More lives can be saved in Scotland through prevention of cancer and through earlier detection and better treatment and that is why we need to encourage people to see their GP as early as possible if they have any concerns. This £30 million funding has been set aside from the extra £1 billion we are committing to the health budget during the next four years.

"Breast, bowel and lung cancer are the three most common cancers in Scotland, and by diagnosing and detecting these cancers earlier, we can treat patients when their general health is better and when less aggressive treatment may be required than if the cancer had spread. This will improve survival and reap benefits for patients, their families and all of Scotland."

"Scotland has made good progress in cancer treatment during the last two decades. Screening for breast, bowel and cervical cancers have been introduced, and cancer is being diagnosed and treated earlier thanks to advances in technology and investment in staff and equipment. However, Scotland continues to lag behind other parts of Europe for cancer survival rates. And with an aging population, the incidence of cancer is set to increase and more complex treatments will be required. More action is therefore needed and this plan sets out how we intend to achieve that."

Eric Byrne, 62, from Airdrie is a lung cancer survivor.

The retired lecturer was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2008. His family was concerned when he developed a persistent cough and persuaded him to visit his GP.

Eric explained:

"To be honest I wasn't initially too worried about the cough but my daughter convinced me to go to my GP. I didn't think it was worth bothering my doctor about but I agreed to go just to put her mind at rest. However, it turned out that my daughter was right to be concerned and I'm just so thankful that she made me get checked out. The doctor sent me for an x-ray at the hospital where they discovered a cancerous tumor was blocking the passage into my lungs. When I heard that it was cancer it was very overwhelming but I didn't have time to dwell on it. I knew that I had to stay positive for my family and I felt very lucky that it was discovered quickly so I could be treated."

Eric received four cycles of chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, making surgery possible. He then underwent a lobectomy in Jan 2009 to remove his upper right lung. Since having the treatment Eric hasn't looked back.

"My worst fear was always becoming an invalid and losing my independence, but that was never realised. I have made a very good recovery and having cancer has not stopped me enjoying life. I go to the gym every day and I look after myself. Catching cancer early has given me the best chance of beating the disease. I would strongly urge everyone to be aware of their body and if you uncover something unusual or different, then make an appointment with your doctor straight away. The worst thing you can do is ignore signs and symptoms. It may not be anything to worry about but it is always best to get a check up."

The plan aims to save more than 300 lives a year by the end of the next Parliamentary term, and from today (Monday Feb 20th) a publicity drive of television and radio adverts starts. This first phase of the campaign is aiming to address fear, lack of knowledge about the prospects of survival from cancer and apprehension to approach a GP. To ensure that the Scottish public are ready for messages on specific cancers and symptoms, it is vital that these perceptions are addressed first.

Action from the plan will initially concentrate on tackling the three most common cancers in Scotland - breast, bowel and lung cancer, with a focus on:

Improving participation (through informed consent ) in national cancer screening programmes to help detect cancer earlier

Raising the public's awareness of screening programmes and also the early signs and symptoms of cancer and encouraging people to seek help earlier

Working with GPs to promote earlier referral or investigation of patients who may be showing a suspicion of cancer

Ensuring there is sufficient capacity in the screening programmes to meet the expected increase in those choosing to take part

Helping imaging departments, other diagnostic departments and treatment centres to prepare for an increase in the number of patients with early disease requiring treatment

Strengthening data collection and performance reporting within NHS Scotland to ensure progress continues to be made on improving early stage cancer diagnosis, access to treatment and survival.

The Detect Cancer Early programme will run for three years. The initial advertising campaign will begin today and run for six weeks primarily across television, radio and online.

This initial activity is a 'priming campaign' about the benefits of presenting early to your GP with symptoms of cancer, and this will be followed by a second wave of activity to highlight the signs and symptoms of individual cancers.

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