Prevention, awareness and screening

Earlier diagnosis of cancer is strongly associated with more successful treatment. The sooner people present with symptoms and ensuring regular participation in the screening programmes is crucial.

Awareness of some signs and symptoms of cancer, plays an integral part to when people seek help for any worrying signs to their change in health. Participation in the national screening programmes can help detect cancers early or even before they develop. Placing prevention at the heart of wider strategies can help reduce the incidence of cancer. These principles frame our work on prevention, public awareness and improvement in screening participation, with a specific focus on reducing health inequalities.

The prevention, awareness and screening improvement strategy and work programme are steered by the NCL Cancer Prevention, Awareness and Screening (NCL CPAS) Delivery Group. The CPAS strategy is underpinned by ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan and local priorities.  The CPAS Delivery Group works in collaboration with national, regional and local health and care partners.

Current projects focus on raising public awareness of cancer signs and symptoms and the importance of seeking help early, as well as increasing participation in the three national screening programmes.

Public awareness of cancer

Awareness of cancer signs and symptoms as well as risk factors is gradually increasing. To continue raising awareness particularly amongst some vulnerable groups, there needs to be an understanding of key messages to disseminate, where to communicate those messages and the targeted approaches that should be taken to reach different communities. The Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) survey  is one means of capturing this information to shape the communications tools used.

The CAM survey has collected and analysed data from the five north central London boroughs. This crucial information supports our ongoing work locally but also efforts to improve presentation to healthcare services following the impact of COVID-19.

We have developed a communications campaign to address immediate priorities and ongoing needs. Implementation of the campaign will begin in April 2021.

Increasing screening participation

Participation in the bowel, breast and cervical cancer screening programmes varies across the five boroughs. For instance, in 2018/19 coverage of bowel screening in Enfield was 53.5% compared to 47.6% in Camden. Evidence shows that certain interventions can drive up participation among people who are less likely to take part due to a number of factors, ranging from access to convenient appointments to unawareness of the importance of screening.  The projects that will be delivered over the next year are detailed below.

Bowel screening telephone reminders

Community Links was commissioned to carry out a targeted piece of work with GP practices, to improve their patients’ participation in bowel screening. Community Links will be contacting people due to receive their first invitation at the age of 60, to speak to them about the importance of taking part, answer any questions they may have and encourage them to participate once they receive their FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Testing) kit.  

Improving access to cervical screening

Access of convenient appointments for cervical screening has been cited as one of the major barriers to participation. Working with the Clinical Commissioning Groups, GP federations and extended access hubs, access to appointments during early mornings, evenings and weekends will be increased in parts of north central London, to offer greater flexibility to women. 

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