Doncaster is fighting back against cancer and we have some great examples of how thousands of local people are living with and beyond what used to be seen as a killer disease.
A generation ago, mention of the Big C, as it is often called, struck fear into people. It was seen as a largely incurable illness that maybe a handful of people survived if they were lucky.
However, advances in medical science, coupled with better patient knowledge of the signs and symptoms to look out for, has changed all that.
Doncaster people are proving they can live well beyond cancer if they get an early diagnosis and fast access to curative treatment.
Currently, 10,000 Doncastrians have been diagnosed with cancer. Within the next 15 years we expect that number to rise to more than 20,000.
We are working closely with the borough’s 43 GP practices to quickly identify patients who may have cancer so they can have an appointment with a specialist consultant within two weeks.
GPs are key players in the battle against cancer – about 300,000 people live in Doncaster and every year doctors urgently refer about 9,000 patients, who they suspect may have the disease, for diagnostic checks.
From those referrals, about 2,500 people of all ages are diagnosed with some type of cancer – nearly one person in every 120 living in the borough.
So Mexborough, for example, with its 15,000 residents, will have an average 120 new cancer patients each year.
Early diagnosis is crucial to getting a good outcome for patients.
Those who recognise cancer symptoms and contact their GP as soon as they see them, have a better chance of survival than those who are diagnosed via an emergency admission to hospital.
GPs are referring patients to cancer specialists faster than before. That is improving survival rates.
So, for example, if you see blood in your poo, tell your GP. It may be nothing to worry about, but as a possible early warning indicator of bowel cancer, it needs checking out. Sadly, patients do not always act on any warning signs they see and may not find out they have bowel cancer until they are rushed into hospital in an emergency with, such as, severe abdominal pain caused by a blocked bowel. Treatment can be less successful if the cancer has reached an advanced stage before it is detected.
Other ways we have been putting a focus on cancer include:
n GPs reviewing the experiences of patients who have been on a cancer journey to see what lessons they can learn;
n Education sessions for 500 GPs and hospital and community-based staff;
n Support from Macmillan Cancer Support for patients who have survived;
n Health awareness campaigns.
In the next few weeks, I will have more good news on how Doncaster is standing up to cancer.