An NHS double-decker bus is touring parts of the country from Monday to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and urge people to visit their GP for potentially life-saving checks if they notice something unusual.
The NHS cancer ‘bus-ting’ tour, in partnership with Stagecoach, comes as new survey data found that more than two in five people wouldn’t make a GP appointment if they noticed a change they thought could be cancer.
The survey of 2,000 adults also found a quarter would wait to see if a potential symptom gets better on its own or ignore it and hope it goes away.
The giant blue bus is branded with striking messages to remind people that catching cancer earlier makes it more treatable, highlighting that of the 78 passengers that the bus can carry, 65 would survive cancer if found at the earliest stage.
Teams of local NHS staff, charity workers and cancer survivors will be on board to share their expertise, provide expert advice to passers-by and help answer questions, discuss any worries, and get people directed to the right place.
The NHS-wrapped bus, which thousands of people visited earlier this year, will start its new tour in Grimsby on Monday, before heading to Coventry, Nottingham, Basildon and finally Portsmouth on Friday.
The 450-mile journey across England will visit areas where early diagnosis rates for cancer are among the lowest.
While most people who get checked for signs and symptoms of cancer will find out that they don’t have cancer, it’s important to get it ruled out early, so volunteer teams travelling around with the bus will remind people to contact their GP practice.
Thanks to these awareness-raising campaigns, more people than ever before have had potentially lifesaving NHS cancer checks, with GPs referring over a quarter of a million (257,702) people for checks in September – an increase of 62,506 referrals compared to the same month before the pandemic – and more than 27,000 people started treatment for cancer in September.
In the last year alone, staff have delivered nearly three million potentially lifesaving checks – over 600,000 more checks than in the same period before the pandemic.
Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England National Cancer Director, said: “Our eye-catching NHS cancer bus is back touring the country to help raise awareness of cancer symptoms, and get people talking about their health, with teams of experts on hand to answer any questions.
“While signs and symptoms vary for different cancers, there are common symptoms such as unexplained pain or discomfort for three weeks or more, an unexplained lump anywhere on the body or unexpected bleeding, and anyone experiencing any of these should not put off seeing their GP.
“The NHS is determined to catch even more cancers at an early stage, because we know the earlier people are diagnosed, the more likely treatment is to be successful. So don’t carry the worry of cancer with you, if something in your body doesn’t feel right, please come forward.”
Onboard the bus will be people like John, an NHS nurse from Portsmouth, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer after initially ignoring his symptoms, putting them down to other things.
After his cancer was spotted during treatment for another condition, John had robotic surgery to remove one side of his colon and a six-month course of chemotherapy.
John said: “As a nurse, I’m used to prioritising other people’s health and unfortunately this meant that when my own body first started telling me something was wrong, I didn’t act quickly.
“Hearing my bowel cancer diagnosis was a huge shock but thanks to the wonderful local NHS staff, and world-leading robotic surgery, I’m now cancer-free. I’m passionate about raising awareness of cancer signs and symptoms to help others catch their cancer early.”
Cancer Research UK’s head information nurse, Martin Ledwick, said: “The number of people in the UK diagnosed with cancer is set to rise by a third by 2040, and campaigns like this can help people get diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage when treatment is more likely to be successful.
“There are over 200 types of cancer with lots of different possible symptoms. If you notice something that isn’t normal for you or isn’t going away, it’s important to speak to your doctor. It probably won’t be cancer. But if it is, spotting it early can make a real difference. We’re pleased that Cancer Research UK nurses are on board supporting this campaign to help people access potentially life-saving information and support.”
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We are so grateful to John for speaking so openly about his diagnosis and treatment to raise awareness of bowel cancer, the UK’s fourth most common cancer.
“If you’re experiencing red flag symptoms of bowel cancer like changes in bowel habit, bleeding from your bottom and blood in your poo, please contact your GP straight away. They will want to see you and may ask you to do a test at home to help decide whether your symptoms need further investigation. Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Knowing the symptoms to look out for and acting quickly really could save your life.”
GP and TV doctor, Dr Hilary Jones, is also supporting the Bus-ting cancer tour. He said: “Diagnosing cancer as early as possible means it is more likely to be treated successfully. This is why the NHS Bus-ting Cancer Tour has hit the road to spread this important message and urge people to be body aware and not ignore potential signs of cancer. If something in your body doesn’t feel right, contact your GP practice. Until you find out, you can’t rule it out and the NHS is here for you whatever the result.”
The bus tour in partnership with Stagecoach, one of the largest bus operators in the UK, will finish in Portsmouth before operating a normal service to the end of the year and will continue to carry the lifesaving cancer messaging, thanks to a donation of the space from Global Radio.
Claire Miles, Stagecoach CEO, said: “We are really proud to be supporting this great cause again and helping to raise more awareness in checking for the early signs of cancer.
“Our services cover towns and cities right across the UK, so we were delighted to partner with the NHS in getting the message out to local communities. If we can prompt even one person to get checked by their GP, then it’s a worthwhile endeavour for us.
“Our ‘Giving for Good’ charity committee has supported numerous campaigns and charities throughout the year and it is always a pleasure to see these ideas come to fruition to help more people, including our valued customers and employees.”
The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,001 Adults in England aged 16+, with at least 250 South Asians and 150 of Black ethnicities. The data was collected between 13.10.2023 –20.10.2023, Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMARprinciples.