Improving the early diagnosis of cancer in disadvantaged communities

24 January 2017

Dr Kate Brain, lead for research into screening, prevention and diagnosis in primary care at PRIME Centre Wales and Wales Cancer Research Centre has been awarded £486K for a health check project aimed at improving the early diagnosis of cancer in disadvantaged communities. The trial will be conducted in collaboration with Centre for Trials Research, Cardiff University.

The award was part of a £7m investment by Yorkshire Cancer Research in ground breaking initiatives that will improve lung cancer outcomes and increase early diagnosis in Yorkshire, announced today 24th January 2017.

The announcement follows expert workshops held last year, which were attended by more than 100 influential and experienced leaders in early diagnosis, which is key to improving survival, and lung cancer, the region’s leading cause of premature death.

The investment is part of the charity’s wider strategy to ensure 2,000 more people living in Yorkshire survive cancer every year by 2025.

Cancer outcomes tend to be worse in areas of high deprivation. The reasons behind this include higher levels of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, poor knowledge and awareness of symptoms, and barriers in access to healthcare.

These factors often lead to diagnosis through emergency routes, such as A&E or emergency GP referral. Patients diagnosed with cancer through an emergency route are more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage, which can mean that treatment options are limited and chances of survival are lower.

Dr Kate Brain at Cardiff University will test a new online health questionnaire in deprived communities in Yorkshire, which will be carried out by trained advisors.

A traffic light system will be used to determine whether further medical advice should be sought. The project could lead to improvements in cancer awareness in deprived communities which contribute significantly to the poor outcomes in Yorkshire.

Kate Brain said: "We’re delighted to have the opportunity to take forward the ABACus project, originally funded by Cancer Research UK and now Yorkshire Cancer Research, to trial the health check in deprived communities across Yorkshire and Wales. The health check has been developed in partnership with Tenovus Cancer Care, and involves an interactive touchscreen questionnaire including questions about cancer symptoms and lifestyle, with individualised results and advice delivered by a trained lay advisor.

"Trialling the health check will allow us to evaluate whether the intervention improves cancer awareness and encourages earlier help seeking among adults living in disadvantaged communities, ultimately leading to earlier diagnosis and better outcomes."