Cancer awarness plans backed

A SERIES of recommendations aimed at raising awareness around cancer have been backed, including plans to host a roadshow.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum has finished its investigation into cancer awareness and early diagnosis.

It comes on the back of stark figures that show Hartlepool has one of the worst rates in England for cancer-related deaths.

The report found cancer is a major cause of ill health and death in Hartlepool, and the vast majority of cancer cases are caused by lifestyle issues such as lack of physical activity and poor diet.

The investigation also found quitting smoking at any age can reduce the risk of contracting lung cancer and that bowel, breast and cervical screening is not about finding cancer, but to look for the changes in a patient’s body which may lead to cancer.

It also found there has been a gradual decline in people attending screening programmes in town with Hartlepool falling behind the North East and England averages.

During the investigation health professionals stressed the importance of early diagnosis and urged people to attend screening sessions.

Women are called for breast screening around their 50th birthday, by GP practice, on a three-year cycle.

Members of the council’s cabinet committee recently noted the report and endorsed an action plan. The plan includes:

● Hartlepool Borough Council hosting a roadshow to push home the messages around cancer.

● That the council encourages community venues in town to host a Teesside Cancer Awareness Roadshow.

● That NHS Hartlepool and the emerging Clinical Commissioning Group ensure cancer screening levels are improved across GP Practices in Hartlepool and working with the health forum devise a strategy to target workplaces and social venues to raise awareness.

● Also, ensure young people in schools and youth groups receive “appropriate” hard hitting messages about the cancer risk of smoking, alcohol and poor diet.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, chair of the health scrutiny forum, said: “What was very clear is that there is still a lot of work to do to bring the figures down.

“That comes from having the issue high on the agenda and to promote the services available.”

Figures from the Department of Health in 2011 indicated that Hartlepool’s death from cancer rate was 159.11 per 100,000 population under 75 years of age.

Although that was an improvement on the 2010 rate of 164.32 per 100,000 population, it was still comparable to the worst in England.

As part of ongoing efforts to improve those figures NHS Hartlepool is currently promoting the regional campaign “Be Clear on Cancer” which highlights cervical, ovarian, bowel, lung and breast cancer and emphases how earlier detection can save lives.

The scrutiny investigation aimed to gain an understanding of the levels of cancer in Hartlepool, explore the methods for early detection and screening of cancer, assess the impact and delivery of smoking cessation services and examine the impact of cancer awareness activities.