HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has urged people worried about cancer to get themselves checked early in a bid to save hundreds of lives.
Speaking at the launch of an in-depth study into cancer rates, Mr Wright said “fast and effective” treatment is available, but not enough people get checked early enough.
It comes as increasing numbers of people are being diagnosed with cancer in Hartlepool – but the town is still among the worst areas nationwide for people being screened.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum has launched the study into what can be done to combat the 34 per cent rise in cancer cases.
Mr Wright said: “When people present themselves for treatment, it is fast and effective.
“The difficulty we have is that people do not present themselves early enough.”
He added that there needs to be more effective screening and more “simple and clear” messages specifically targeted at men and women.
Ahead of the meeting, health chiefs revealed that almost half of people in the town are not taking up bowel screening services and a quarter of women are not taking up cervical and breast cancer screening.
Hartlepool has one of the worst rates in England for cancer-related deaths, and the aim of the investigation is to see what can be done to raise awareness and catch cases early.
Latest figures show there has been a 34 per cent increase in the number of cancer sufferers in the town from 376 in 1985 to 505 in 2008.
They also show that the annual death rate rose in the same time period from 276 to 292 people.
The most common form of the disease in Hartlepool is lung cancer.
Mr Wright, who said one problem was the reluctance to see a doctor, added: “If we focus on early identification and early diagnosis and work in partnership then we can really bring down some of those disturbing rates.
“Hundreds of lives could be saved by getting clear messages out,” added Mr Wright who also compared the number of young women smoking to a “ticking time-bomb”.
Cabinet councillor Ged Hall, who has responsibility for health, added: “The local authority is committed to helping address these issues.”
During the course of the investigation evidence will be sought from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Hartlepool, local GPs and the Tobacco Alliance.
NHS Hartlepool is promoting the regional campaign Be Clear on Cancer to highlight cervical, ovarian, bowel, lung and breast cancer and how earlier detection can save lives.
Speaking at the meeting, Louise Wallace, assistant director of health improvement, said the priorities were raising awareness, early detection and improving the uptake of cancer screening programmes.
She said: “One in three people will probably get cancer; one in four will die.
“I cannot underestimate the importance of early detection.”
Madeleine Johnson, a consultant on public health for NHS Tees, said: “The simple message is that people must respond to their invitations for screenings because it may safe lives.”
Anyone needing more information about the advice, help and resources available should contact the Hartlepool Health Development team on (01429) 284270.