ACTOR and comedian Stephen Fry is one of two East of England cancer survivors backing a national NHS campaign encouraging people with potential cancer symptoms to come forward for lifesaving checks.
The star of TV’s Blackadder, who lives in Norfolk, has revealed he was treated for prostate cancer in 2018 and is now warning people of the early signs of abdominal or urological cancer as frontman in the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign film.
The popular actor appears along with Daksha Trivedi, from Meppershall in Bedfordshire, who tells of her diagnosis and recovery from oesophogeal cancer, urging people to see their GP straight away if they notice symptoms that could be cancer.
Stephen Fry says he was “stunned” when he received his cancer diagnosis.
“I was very lucky because mine was diagnosed early. As you get older you realise you are less embarrassed at the fact that you have to check things.
“So please, make an appointment with your GP if you notice discomfort in the tummy area or diarrhoea for three weeks or blood in your pee, even just once."
Public health academic Daksha Trivedi is well known across the East of England for her work supporting cancer patients and raising awareness of the cultural issues within healthcare that can affect patients and their families in black and Asian communities.
In the film, Daksha tells how her GP sent her for tests after she reported symptoms of bloating and irritable bowel.
“Early detection does save lives. I’m a testament to that,” she says.
The new film follows figures revealing more than half of people (51%) would be put off going to see their doctor if they had symptoms such as tummy troubles for three weeks or blood in their pee, due to feeling embarrassed.
Nationally, referrals and treatment levels for cancer are back to pre-pandemic levels, with latest data showing more than 230,000 people were checked in June – the second highest number of patients seen in a single month on record. More than 26,600 of these cancer checks were in the East of England.
More than 27,000 people in the country started treatment in June with the overwhelming majority starting within a month (95%). In the East of England, more than 3,000 patients received their first cancer treatment in June.
Despite abdominal and urological cancers accounting for nearly half (44%) of all cancer diagnoses and two in five (41%) cancer deaths in England, new figures from the NHS show that many people are unaware of common warning signs – which could prevent them seeking help.
More than one in four people (29%) did not know that tummy troubles and diarrhoea for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer, while more than a third (36%) mistook it as a sign of getting older.
Earlier this month NHS chiefs stressed there could be tens of thousands more people with symptoms who are not coming forward, either because they’re unaware of common cancer symptoms, or because they feel they would burden the NHS.
Dame Cally Palmer, Director of the NHS Cancer Programme, said: “We are very grateful to Stephen Fry for helping us to raise awareness of cancer symptoms. We continue to encourage anyone with potential symptoms to make an appointment to see their GP as soon as possible.
“The NHS has made effective use of resources available to us to maintain and recover services and we are back to usual levels for treatment and referrals for cancer, but we know that thousands of people could be risking their lives by delaying medical attention for cancer symptoms – please help us to help you by coming forward for a lifesaving check if you have a worrying sign or symptom.”
Alongside Stephen Fry, others who have been diagnosed with abdominal and urological cancers share their stories as part of the campaign, encouraging people “if in doubt, check it out”, and to not be embarrassed to talk about bowel problems.
The figures also show half of people would put off going to see their doctor if they had cancer symptoms out of fear of wasting their time, and 71% would only speak to their doctor about cancer symptoms if they were sure it was something serious.
Dr Hilary Jones, who is also backing the campaign, said: “As a GP and having seen instances of urological and abdominal cancers in the past, I can honestly say if you’re experiencing any tummy troubles for a few weeks, your GP will want to know about it.
“Hopefully it’s nothing serious, but if it is cancer there are lots of treatment options available and the earlier cancer is found, the better.
“I know that some of my patients are nervous to come to my clinic because of coronavirus, but the NHS has put measures in place to ensure we can see you safely so please, come and see us.”
In July, the NHS announced £20 million investment to speed up cancer diagnosis so that thousands more people can get potentially life-saving cancer checks.
The NHS Long Term Plan committed to catching three quarters of cancers early, when they are easier to treat, up from half at present.
See the campaign film at: NHS England » Stephen Fry joins NHS campaign urging people to come forward for cancer checks
For more information on cancer symptoms, see: Cancer - Signs and symptoms - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
NOTES TO EDITORS:
For more information about Daksha’s story, see: Surviving Cancer – Now Living the Dream by Dr Daksha Trivedi – A cancer survivor gets her life back
East of England has two Cancer Alliances, North and South, working together with NHS organisations, local authorities, voluntary and community sector partners, to transform cancer services across the region.
The Cancer Alliances bring together clinicians, commissioners, patients and members of the local community, to deliver better outcomes for patients through early diagnosis and more integrated and personalised care for all those affected by cancer.
They also have a key role in supporting pioneering work on latest treatments and prevention of the disease through healthy lives.
The East of England Cancer Alliances have an active Patient Participation Group which ensures that the views and experiences of local people affected by cancer are at the heart of their work.
There are 21 Cancer Alliances in England, working to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan commitments for people affected by cancer.
The ambitions will be delivered in a way that:
- improves quality of life outcomes;
- improves patient experience outcomes;
- reduces variation; and
- reduces inequalities
For more information about Cancer Alliances, see NHS England » Cancer Alliances – improving care locally
For more information or interview requests, contact Gillian Humphrey, Communications Manager, 07702 430031 firstname.lastname@example.org