A quarter of Sheffield people do not take up screening tests for cancer, or know a symptom of the disease, shocking statistics show.
One in four people in the city does not access the screenings for bowel, breast and cervical cancer they are entitled to.
And 21 per cent of people could not name any cancer warning signs, such as changes in bowel habits, a lump or growing moles, according to an awareness survey of more than 3,000 residents. Now Sheffield’s leading cancer GP is urging people to learn what to watch out for in a bid to identify cancers earlier and further improve survival rates.
Dr Anthony Gore, the NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s clinical lead for cancer, said: “What I would like is fewer younger people coming to see me with minor ailments and older people coming to see me with about things they’ve been putting up with.
“The classic example is a smoker who has had a cough for weeks, has antibiotics, but doesn’t go back to the doctor when their cough doesn’t improve.
“Eventually they get scared and turn up at the accident and emergency department in hospital to have a chest X-ray which reveals a great big lump.
“If they had gone straight back to the doctor when the cough didn’t improve, the next thing a GP would have done is asked for a chest X-ray, which would have found what was wrong several months earlier.
“None of this is rocket science. A small shift makes a big difference in terms of how early people are diagnosed and ultimately survival rates.”
Sheffield Council is leading a campaign to raise awareness of the signs of cancer – with posters around the city, online appeals and new leaflets in pharmacies – as part of its role in improving public health and reducing inequality.
In Sheffield, lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease, followed by cancer of the breast, bowel and prostate. Nationally the most common is breast cancer.
The campaign aims to make people aware of what is normal for their bodies and that cancer is easier to treat when diagnosed early, as well as urging them to seek medical advice over persistent changes.
Signs to look out for include persistent abdominal pain, looser bowel movements or blood in stools, changes in swallowing, urinary changes and even a hoarse voice.
“The more screenings that we do, ultimately the more people we will cure,” said Dr Gore.