Abdominal symptoms campaign

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A regional Be Clear on Cancer campaign ran across the Midlands from 9 February to 31 March 2017 to raise awareness of abdominal symptoms that could be caused by cancer.

The key message for the campaign was ‘if you have had tummy troubles for 3 weeks or more, it could be a sign of cancer, tell your doctor’. The advertising highlighted that finding cancer early makes it more treatable. Advertisement was included in local and regional newspapers, radio adverts and out of home advertising (bus shelters, washrooms, pharmacy bags etc.)

The six pilot areas in the East Midlands were:

  • Southern Derbyshire
  • Nottingham City
  • Lincolnshire West
  • Mid-Nottinghamshire
  • Burton
  • Kettering

A number of materials were created to support the Abdominal Campaign including briefing sheets for health professionals and campaign materials for patients. A few examples are listed below.

Health Care Professionals briefing sheet (January 2017)

The key message for the campaign was ‘Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you’ve been suffering from tummy troubles such as diarrhoea, bloating, discomfort or anything else that just doesn’t feel right for three weeks or more, it could be a sign of cancer. Finding it early makes it more treatable. Tell your doctor.’

The aim was to raise awareness amongst the over 50s that ongoing abdominal symptoms could be a sign of cancer, and that going to the GP could help detect it early, when it is more treatable.

The main three symptoms the campaign promoted were diarrhoea, bloating and discomfort. The public facing leaflet for the campaign also highlighted; constipation, nausea/feeling sick and blood in poo for three weeks or more, and encouraged those with other unusual changes like a lump in the tummy area, postmenopausal bleeding or unexplained weight loss, to go and tell their doctor as well. 

The campaign was aimed at those aged 50 years and older from lower socioeconomic groups. They were targeted through media channels of most relevance to this group. 

This was the first time that a Be Clear on Cancer campaign led with a focus on a specific body area and localised symptoms that may be indicative of cancer. The main aim of the pilot campaign was to test and evaluate the impact of the messaging on the target audience.

Results from other Be Clear on Cancer activity have shown that GPs are more likely to see patients with the symptoms advertised in the campaign. Although we don’t have any data for the abdominal campaign specifically, data analysis from a sample of GP practices on previous Be Clear on Cancer campaigns has shown a range from 0.1 additional visits per practice per week (2014, national ‘Breast cancer in women over 70’ campaign) to a maximum of 3.1 additional visits per practice per week (2012, national lung cancer campaign). It should be noted that these campaigns were at the national level and featured a much higher weight of advertising, including TV. 

As with all Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, evaluation metrics for the campaign have been developed in consultation with a range of experts. These include:

  • the impact of the campaign on public awareness through pre- and post-campaign surveys
  • the number of cancer presentations to primary care
  • the number of urgent GP (two week wait (2WW)) referrals for suspected cancer across multiple pathways
  • the conversion rates following urgent GP referrals

The National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) is responsible for evaluation of the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns.

Be Clear on Cancer statement

Be Clear on Cancer  is a cancer awareness campaign led by Public Health England, working in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England. This page contains links to documents that we hope you find useful. Please note however that the views or opinions expressed within those links are not necessarily those of Cancer Research UK.

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