Small c cancer campaign launches today in Hackney

Hackney cancer survivors are backing the NHS “small c” campaign that launched today, hoping to improve cancer survival in the borough by helping people spot the early warning signs.

Cancer is often referred to as the ‘Big C’ because some people have such a fatalistic view of the disease that they can’t even say the word - but thankfully for most cancer patients, today’s treatments are likely to be successful - providing the disease is spotted early.

The UK has great cancer treatment centres, but still lags behind the rest of Europe when it comes to survival rates.

The campaign’s first phase will target lung and breast cancer, which account for the largest number of patients in Hackney whose lives would have been saved with earlier diagnosis.

In Hackney, only eight per cent of people recognise the symptoms of lung cancer compared to the national average of 18 per cent, and the borough is also behind the national average for one year lung cancer survival.

Leonard Devoir, 58, from Berkshire Road in Hackney Wick, was diagnosed with lung cancer last March, whilst working long shifts as a road sweeper.

“I got sick, but I just thought I had flu. I was coughing, but I was a smoker so that wasn’t so unusual,” he said.

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One night, however, Leonard woke at 2am with terrible chest pains and his wife told him he had to get to a doctor, who sent him to A&E where a chest X-ray showed a tumour on his right lung - later diagnosed as lung cancer.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a lucky person in general,” he said.

“But the day I went to the GP that time saved my life. If they hadn’t spotted the cancer early, it would have been a lot worse.”

A cough lasting for longer than three weeks could be a warning sign of lung cancer.

Meanwhile although most breast changes - including lumps - aren’t cancer, it’s important to get them checked out by your GP without delay.

“Tragically too many people in Hackney don’t know the warning signs of cancer and the importance of checking symptoms with their GP straight away,” said Stoke Newington GP, Dr Emma West.

The project may become national, but is starting in East London where the biggest problem lies.