Information for pharmacy teams

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Be Clear on Cancer - Ovarian campaign logo

Campaign materials

Briefing sheets and marketing materials (e.g. leaflets and posters) are available on the resources and tools page.

Download campaign materials

A regional ovarian cancer pilot campaign took place in the North West of England from 10 February to 16 March 2014. We know that pharmacists and pharmacy staff are vital in helping to make this campaign a success.

We have provided some questions and answers specifically for you to complement other information on this site, to help you prepare for and support the regional campaign.

This section includes general information for pharmacy-based teams, so please encourage your colleagues to take a look too.

You can order ovarian campaign leaflets and  posters free of charge via orderline.

Around 5,900 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in England each year –  around 4,900 (more than 80%) are aged 50 and over [1].

Outcomes in Britain are worse than those in some European countries and recent estimates suggest that around 500 deaths from ovarian cancer could be avoided each year if survival rates matched the best in Europe.

More than 90% of women diagnosed with the earliest stage ovarian cancer (stage I) survive their disease for at least five years. This figure is around 5% for those women diagnosed with the most advanced stage disease (stage  IV) [2].

Research has shown that even women with early stage disease can experience symptoms.


1. Data  provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2013. Number of  cases of ovarian cancer (ICD-10: C56-C57) diagnosed in England in 2011 (for age  groups, the annual average number of cases between 2009 and 2011 is given.  Similar data can be found here:

2. Five-Year Stage-Specific Relative Survival Rates, Adults (Ages  15-99), Anglia Cancer Network 2004-2008, Eastern Cancer Registry and Information  Centre (ECRIC). Personal communication.

The campaign targets all women over 50, the age group most at risk of  developing ovarian cancer, and their friends and family.

The regional campaign ran from 10 February until 16 March 2014, highlighting  the main message: Feeling bloated, most days, for three weeks or more could be a sign of ovarian cancer. Tell your doctor.

This key message was promoted through a range of different channels across the North West TV region including:

  • Regional television
  • Regional radio
  • Regional press

The campaign also included PR and face-to-face events in various locations across North West England. They took place in public areas like shopping centres. A schedule of events with more details of dates and locations is available to download.

Download event schedule

Focusing on just one key symptom keeps the message simple and direct. A panel of experts and clinicians advised that, of the symptoms highlighted in the NICE guidelines, persistent abdominal distension (‘bloating’) was the key possible sign of ovarian cancer.

We know that people delay going to see their GP for a variety of reasons.  They may not realise their symptoms are serious, worry about wasting the GP’s time or be embarrassed. When tested with the target audience (women aged 50 and over), women felt the campaign provided reassurance that they should see their GP if they had experienced persistent bloating.

It is essential to highlight the importance of persistence and frequency of bloating as part of the campaign message. When tested with the target audience, women felt the campaign needed to explain what was meant by ‘persistent’. They asked for clarity – to know how long they should wait before going to see their  GP.

Be Clear on Cancer uses everyday language, so the description in the NICE guidelines (more than 12 times per month) was reworded to reflect how women  would describe persistent bloating.

Results from local pilot campaigns, which ran from January to March 2013, showed:

  • Confidence in knowledge of symptoms of ovarian cancer increased  significantly in the Anglia/Essex pilot area after the campaign, up from 20% to 31% of people saying they were ‘very/fairly confident’
  • 57% of women agreed  that ‘the advertising told me something new’More than six in 10 women are diagnosed with stage III or IV ovarian cancer, and only around three in 10 women are diagnosed at the earliest  stage [1].

The approval of CA125 as a diagnostic test for ovarian cancer within primary care and work to support direct access to non-obstructive ultrasound has made diagnosing and excluding ovarian cancer simpler for GPs.This adds to the timeliness of this campaign.


1. ICBP Module 1 Working Group; (2012) Stage at  diagnosis and ovarian cancer survival: Evidence from the International Cancer  Benchmarking Partnership. Gynecologic oncology, 127 (1). pp. 75-82. ISSN  0090-8258 DOI:10.1016/j.ygyno.2012.06.033

The public-facing information highlights having any of the following  symptoms, ‘most days, for three weeks or more’:

  • Unexplained bloating
  • Feeling full quickly or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or stomach pain
  • Needing to pee urgently or more frequently than  normal
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Extreme fatigue (feeling very  tired)
  • Unexplained weight loss


  • aged over 50 – the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age.
  • who are overweight or obese.
  • who smoke are at higher risk of developing some types of ovarian cancer.
  • using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), particularly oestrogen-only HRT. The longer women take HRT, the more the risk may increase.
  • with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer.

Although over 80% [1] of ovarian cancers occur in women over 50, we do not want to discourage those who fall under this age group from going to their GP with persistent bloating.

The campaign leaflets and web copy will use case studies of women aged over 50. Where possible, advertising in the media will also target women over 50. The campaign materials were specifically tested with women in this age group.


1.  Data  provided by the Office for National Statistics on request, July 2013. Number of  cases of ovarian cancer (ICD-10: C56-C57) diagnosed in England in 2011 (for age  groups, the annual average number of cases between 2009 and 2011 is given.  Similar data can be found here:

If you’re a pharmacist and your customer or patient complains about frequently feeling bloated, or is using an over the counter (OTC) medicines to treat this persistent boating, urge them to visit their doctor. GPs will be following the updated NICE guidelines, which recommend carrying out diagnostic tests on women with symptoms of ovarian cancer and making an urgent two-week referral as appropriate.

Be confident and, where relevant, give customers permission to visit their GP. We know that people delay going to see their GP for a variety of reasons. They might be embarrassed, not realise their symptoms are serious or worry about wasting their GP’s time.

We know that many people are comfortable discussing their everyday symptoms with their local pharmacy team.  Use this opportunity to provide them with the right advice about visiting their GP, if you think that is appropriate.

If you feel comfortable, tell the customer to mention that their pharmacist sent them. It may be the push they need to get themselves checked out.

If you are a member of the pharmacy team, be confident and follow your normal protocol. If you are concerned about a customer and feel  uncomfortable talking about cancer, ask your pharmacist to speak to them or, if  that isn’t possible, urge the customer to go to see their GP and get their symptoms checked out. It may be nothing serious, but may still need treating. If it is cancer, it’s better for it to be detected early.

The Be Clear on Cancer materials highlight the importance of early diagnosis of cancer and reassures people that their symptoms are unlikely to be  cancer, but that it’s best to get it checked.

There has been overwhelming support from the public following the first  national bowel cancer campaign that ran from January to March 2012. The huge majority of the public, 92%, said they think it is important for the Government to be communicating these kinds of messages.

Make it a part of day-to-day conversations. Many women you talk to may have seen the campaign and want to discuss it during regular consultations, such as medicine use reviews, or when they buy relevant over the counter medicines. You could mention the campaign when you advise women about how to manage associated symptoms.

Give permission. Women may not realise their symptoms are serious, worry about wasting their GP’s time, or be embarrassed. They might seek your permission to make an appointment. You might see some customers or patients more regularly than their doctor does. Where relevant, encourage women to visit their GP. If you feel comfortable, suggest they mention that their pharmacist or a member of the pharmacy team sent them. It might be the push they need to get  themselves checked out.

Promote the campaign. Put up posters in your pharmacy and ensure you have some campaign leaflets readily available for customers. You can order hard copies of the ovarian cancer campaign leaflets and posters free of charge from orderline or by calling 0300 123 1002.

Talk about it. Chat to friends, family, customers and colleagues about the Be Clear on Cancer ovarian campaign– talking may prompt  someone to open up about a symptom they didn’t think was serious. We need to encourage people to talk openly about cancer. This campaign gives us all the chance to do that.

You can order free posters and leaflets to display in your pharmacy via or by ringing 0300 123 1002.

A range of additional Be Clear on Cancer materials have been developed for the ovarian cancer campaign.

PDFs for these materials are available to download from this website and can be used alongside posters and leaflets to promote and support the campaign locally.

The public-facing website for the Be Clear on Campaign is NHS Choices.

Download a briefing sheet for pharmacists and pharmacy staff

Please do share the briefing sheet with your colleagues and ensure that everyone is up to speed on the campaign.

There are resources available to pharmacy staff. One source of support for frontline staff is a free-to-access toolkit developed by Lancashire & South Cumbria Cancer Network.

For more information, or if you have any queries, please contact

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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