DONCASTER residents must raise their awareness of cancer in order to increase survival rates in the borough, say experts.
Doctors at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and local campaigners are concerned too many people are not aware of the symptoms of the disease, after it was revealed only 63.7 of every 100 people survive a year after diagnosis in 2009.
The figure is 66.5 nationally.
The figure in Doncaster lags behind Sheffield at 68.3 and Rotherham at 64.8, but has improved from 57.5 per cent in 1996.
A spokesman for the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust, which runs the DRI, said: “A major factor in survival is the stage of cancer at the time of initial diagnosis.
“This, in turn, is linked to people’s awareness of the symptoms of cancer and seeking help early.
“We know that the greater the social deprivation, the less awareness there is of potential cancer symptoms, and therefore delays in seeking help. If cancer is diagnosed much later, the outcomes are not as good.
“Other factors affecting the outcome include obesity, smoking, and alcohol intake. Each is high in the Doncaster area.”
The concerns over awareness of symptoms were echoed by cancer survivor Denise Dunn, who has become a leading campaigner and fundraiser for cancer victims.
She set up the Firefly charity, which runs shuttle buses between Doncaster and Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital.
Denise, a nurse, fought breast cancer after noticing signs early. She was diagnosed in November 1997, and says she caught it soon by being self aware.
She said: “I think the survival figures in Doncaster are not as good as they should be.
“Good outcomes after cancer depend on early diagnosis, so to get the best outcomes you must make sure you are diagnosed early. People need to be cancer aware, and to look out for changes in their body or signs of something untowards, and get it checked out.
“People have to take responsibility for that themselves. Treatments today are fantastic, but it depends on people being diagnosed. I think there is often a feeling of complacency among people that it cannot happen to them.”
Denise says she herself had to fight to have her initial concerns taken seriously. She was 37 and had no family history of breast cancer.
She said: “I didn’t find a lump, I found thickening, but it was by being breast aware that I detected a subtle change.
“The doctors initially said there was nothing amiss, and it was only when I had some surgery that the diagnosis was made.”
Survival rates in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster still lag behind most other areas. The towns are among the Yorkshire region’s worst-performing authorities.
Barnsley - where 63.3 out of 100 cancer patients will live for a year after diagnosis - is the worst of 14 regional locations. In 1996, it was third-worst.
Doncaster is second-worst, falling from fifth-worst in 1996.
The figures, released by the Office of National Statistics, compare a 14-year period and look at the proportion of adults aged 15 to 99 who have survived at least a year after diagnosis.