Improving early diagnosis of cancer: a multi organisation approach


The former North of England Cancer Network, now part of the Northern England Strategic Clinical Networks, worked with the Department of Health, Public Health England and Cancer Research UK on two regional pilots for Be Clear on Cancer: ‘blood in pee’ (bladder and kidney cancers) and oesophago-gastric. 

The campaigns have increased awareness of cancer symptoms; they have led to more referrals for tests and ultimately, more cancers have been diagnosed. Be Clear on Cancer is based on measurable success in raising awareness of cancer symptoms with the public, but it has also been the catalyst for collaboration and change within the NHS.


The Government having stated its ambition to prevent 5,000 avoidable deaths, the Cancer Network created a local initiative to ‘save 1000 lives’ across its footprint. Goals for both national and local teams were aligned. Locally, the team had to tackle low levels of awareness of cancer symptoms. 

The Department of Health, Public Health England and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) were looking for areas with a high incidence and mortality of specific cancer types and a willingness to host pilot ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaigns. 

The Cancer Network had trialled various projects aimed at improving early diagnosis of cancer, including nurse-led activities in urology and an oesophageal cancer campaign, but resources were limited.


Objectives for the regional pilots were three-fold. Firstly, the team wanted to test the ‘blood in pee’ and oesophago-gastric cancer campaigns, to see if they were suitable for scaling up to a national level. This included learning about the subtleties of each campaign and starting to formulate plans for a wider roll out should evaluation results prove positive. 

Secondly, they wanted to use the campaigns locally as a catalyst and an opportunity to review the patient pathways, bring secondary and primary care colleagues together and to focus on cancers of particular interest in the Northern area. 

The final objective was to increase public awareness of bladder, kidney, oesophageal and stomach cancers and encourage those with symptoms to act.

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