400 extra lives saved thanks to Doncaster’s ‘catch cancer early’ drive

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Nearly 400 ‘extra’ lives have been saved in Doncaster over the past two years thanks to a ‘catch cancer early’ drive, spearheaded by NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Newly released figures reveal that between March 2013 and March 2015, an additional 185 people a year won their battle against cancer through local measures introduced by the CCG to stimulate early detection of the disease, followed up with fast access to potentially curable treatment.

Health chiefs at the CCG who developed the borough’s cancer plan believe, after crunching through the data, that 370 people are alive today who probably wouldn’t be had there not been a major local focus on catching and treating cancer early.

Their comments are based on comparing Doncaster’s cancer care figures for the last two years against those for the 2012/13 period.

Doncaster GP Dr Marco Pieri, who works at Scawthorpe’s Petersgate Practice, leads the CCG’s cancer work. He said: “Since 2013 we have focussed on tackling cancer on a number of fronts, including providing training for GPs to increase the number of patients referred to hospital specialists with suspected cancer; organising weekend cover for cancer care at Doncaster Royal Infirmary; and developing a scheme with the Macmillan charity and others to support local cancer ‘survivors’.

Dr Marco Pieri featured in the bowel cancer campaign
Dr Marco Pieri

“As a result, the number of people diagnosed with cancer after being admitted to hospital in an emergency, when it is often too late for treatment, has been cut by 30 per cent. At the same time, GPs have referred to hospital an additional 2,700 (38 per cent) patients with suspected cancer, which has led to an additional 555 people (26 per cent) having their first treatment to battle the disease.

“Overall, Doncaster has increased by 12 per cent the number of patients who have had their first treatment for cancer, which is the highest increase in South Yorkshire, and more than twice the national average (5.5 per cent). This is largely due to the combined efforts of GP practices and clinicians in hospitals in Doncaster and Sheffield in spotting the cancer early warning signs and arranging fast access to treatment that saves lives.”

Dr Pieri who recently featured in a bowel cancer awareness raising campaign devised by the CCG in partnership with Doncaster Rovers, said that educating the public in what to look out for is also proving a success in the town.

CCG's Head of Commissioning for Cancer, Richard Metcalfe
CCG’s Head of Commissioning for Cancer, Richard Metcalfe

His CCG colleague Richard Metcalfe said: “We know from evaluating the promotional work we’ve done with Rovers that, prior to the campaigns we’ve run on bowel, lung and prostate cancers, some 44 per cent said they would not have known what the signs and symptoms were. Similarly, if they had the cancer warning signs, 46 per cent would not have thought to see medical advice.

“But following the campaign, 99 per cent told us they would now know what to look for and would also be able to tell someone else that they should see their GP.”

Nearly 9,000 Doncaster people are urgently referred by their GP to hospital with suspected cancer each year and, following tests, an average 2,500 of them are found to have the disease.

It’s estimated that there are 10,000 Doncaster people living with a cancer diagnosis at the moment and by 2030 this is expected to rise to over 20,000.

Doncaster has:

  • poor local health, in part due having an estimated 15,400 more smokers than areas with similar population comparisons;
  • a higher incidence of cancer, with many people not being diagnosed until it is too late to have potentially life-saving treatment; and
  • a poorer take up of regular breast and cervical cancer checks by local women compared to other areas.

CCG Chair Dr Nick Tupper said: “Diagnosing cancer early is the key to saving more lives and the figures speak for themselves. The average age of a person diagnosed with cancer in Doncaster is 65 and the average life expectancy of someone living in the town is 79. This means that, on average, everyone who survives cancer could potentially enjoy an average 14 extra years of life.

“If you multiply those 14 years by the additional 370 people we estimate have survived cancer over the past two years it adds up to a potential extra 5,180 life years, which those people will be able to spend with their family and friends.”

CASE STUDY: Brian WrightBrian Wright

Beating cancer led to Doncaster man Brian Wright becoming a world champion.

The Company Director, from Bessacarr, spotted blood in his poo and after his GP referred him to a hospital consultant, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Because the disease was caught early, doctors were able to remove the tumour without the need for follow-up chemotherapy.

That was in 2005 and next month the married father of two grown-up children is looking forward to celebrating 10 years of living with and beyond cancer as one of the town’s growing band of ‘survivors’.

Brian, 66, said: “Strangely enough, the relief of having the operation progressed into a period of depression and I looked to sport to help me get back on track.

“ I had played badminton since the age of 12, latterly at my local club in Bessacarr and, as I got older, for Yorkshire veterans.

I decided to enter competitions in the veterans’ category, becoming UK champion in 2009, taking the European title in 2010, before crowning it all by becoming world age 60+ champion at the 2013 finals in Vancouver, Canada.

“Ironically, I doubt if I would have gone down that route had cancer not crossed my path. It just goes to prove that beating the disease can be the start of something new”.

In the last 10 years, Brian has also raised more than £3,500 in sponsorship for cancer charities by cycling the 217 mile Trans-Pennine Trail from Southport to Hornsea and a 270 miles route from Kings Cross, London to Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral.

Recently he has joined the Macmillan charity’s Doncaster support group, working with NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group to improve cancer services for local people.

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