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Awareness and Early Diagnosis

Image shows two people and text that says Spot the Difference? Lung Cancer doesn't discriminate. Nor do we. We're here to spot the difference. Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Spot the Difference and take action

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Champions

Early symptoms of lung cancer can be subtle and easy to ignore. A bit of breathlessness is put down to being a bit out of shape. Lack of energy can be caused by anything from poor diet to low mood. And a persistent cough? Well, we all know what springs to mind when we hear a cough nowadays.

A new awareness campaign from Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation aims to help people ‘spot the difference’ in their health, identifying symptoms which are unusual for them and encourage and reassure them to take action.

Spot the Difference highlights many of different lung cancer symptoms including a persistent cough, breathlessness, weight loss and fatigue and how they can masquerade in every day activities. It also features a variety of patients who spotted differences in their health, were diagnosed early and went on to have curative intent treatment.

To find out more about the campaign and potential symptoms, visit roycastle.org/ spotthedifference

Image shows two people and text that says Spot the Difference? Lung Cancer doesn't discriminate. Nor do we. We're here to spot the difference. Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
An image of Katy Connolly. She has long brown hair and is smiling at the camera.

Finding HPV during a cervical screening: Katy’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Champions | No Comments

After a routine cervical screening test, Katy received a letter saying she had abnormal cells. As a Cancer Champion, Katy is now sharing her experience to help tackle the fears some women and people with a cervix may be experiencing about cervical screening.

An image of Katy Connolly. She has long brown hair and is smiling at the camera.

After a routine cervical screening, Katy received a letter saying she had abnormal cells and HPV.

“Following a routine cervical screening test, I was shocked to receive a feedback letter saying I had abnormal cells and HPV virus. It seemed very sinister and I was worried; how had I got HPV?!

I was then asked to go to Hull Royal for a colposcopy, which made me feel very nervous, as I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived, however, the whole team made me feel at ease as soon as I walked in.

Before the colposcopy examination, I spoke with a consultant who explained more about the HPV virus… that it was very normal, and that I had most likely had it for years. By keeping a close eye on the cells and removing tiny amounts of them if required, it can ultimately stop the development of cancerous cells. There was no suggestion to say that I would develop cancerous cells if the HPV was left untreated – but it was a great way to prevent it from happening.

An illustration of a woman attending a colposcopy appointment. She is on a hospital bed with legs in supports while a health professional assess her cervix through a colposcope which connects to a screen showing the cervix.

By keeping a close eye on the cells and removing tiny amounts of them if required, a colposcopy can ultimately stop the development of cancerous cells. [Image from Jo’s Trust]

The colposcopy was just like a cervical screening test, conducted by a specialist who viewed the cervix and took a tiny biopsy of the cells (which didn’t hurt at all) which were then sent off for analysis. I received a letter a few weeks later to say the abnormal cells had been examined and were not cancerous, so I would continue to have yearly smears to keep an eye on things.

The following year, when I returned for a smear test, I was referred for another colposcopy. This time, the consultant advised that they would remove some of the cells there and then – which was good because I didn’t have time to overthink it! Again, it was painless – just a little uncomfortable for a matter of seconds. The procedure was very quick. After using a local anaesthetic on the cervix (which also didn’t hurt) he used a device with a heated thin wire loop, which quickly removed a tiny amount of the abnormal cells.

Before I knew it, I was sat in a comfy chair, drinking a cup of tea, and eating a biscuit! I didn’t experience any pain when the anaesthetic wore off. I just had to avoid exercise for 3-4 weeks (other than walking).

I’ve just had another smear, and the HPV virus is still present, but there are no abnormal cells, so I’m being referred for a colposcopy again.

I’m very grateful for the cervical screening system – it is empowering to know that by attending the routine smear tests and colposcopies, I’m doing everything I can to monitor my health, which benefits both me and my family.”

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening (previously known as a smear test) is a test to check the health of your cervix, which is the opening to your womb from your vagina. It’s not a test for cancer; it’s a test to help prevent cancer.

In England, all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited to regular appointments by letter. During each appointment, a small sample of cells will be taken from your cervix to check for human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells of your cervix.

To find out more about the cervical screening programme and how attending your appointment can help prevent cancer, visit www.jostrust.org.uk

An image of the van used for lung health checks in Hull. It's a large white trailer with a blue swirl design, and it features the Siemens and Healthineers logos.

Targeted Lung Health Checks are back and they have never been more important

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Alliance
Image of Dr Stuart Baugh standing in front of a brick wall. Stuart is wearing a suit and is looking at the camera smiling.

Dr Stuart Baugh, Programme Director
Lung Health Checks in Hull

Lung Health Checks in Hull are back following a temporary pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of all those involved, we have been able to resume the Targeted Lung Health Check programme and introduce COVID-19 measures to ensure staff and patient safety.

The programme, which aims to diagnose lung cancer early, started its phased return in April and will play a key role in improving outcomes for people at high risk of developing lung cancer or other respiratory diseases.

It has been an incredibly difficult time for cancer services recently and our challenge of diagnosing lung cancer early, when treatment can be simpler and more successful, has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

At the peak of the pandemic, the number of cancer referrals dropped by 60% and although they have recovered well in general, lung cancer has been one of the slowest to recover.

A national ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign which ran between February and May has helped to encourage people with a persistent cough to contact their GP, but there can often be no symptoms during the earliest stage of lung cancer, so it is important to also identify and diagnose those at highest risk of developing the disease.

The Targeted Lung Health Check Programme invites people who are between the ages of 55 to less than 75, are current or previous smokers, live in Hull and are registered with a Hull GP, to take part in a free NHS Lung Health Check.

Eligible participants take part in a telephone assessment with a specially trained nurse and those reaching the risk score threshold are then invited to attend a low dose CT scan on board a mobile unit, which is currently situated at Castle Hill Hospital. You can find out more about Lung Health Check appointments in the video below:

Thee image shows a man stood in a kitchen coughing into a tissue. The text reads A cough that lasts three weeks or more could be a warning sign, just contact your GP practice if you've had a cough for three weeks or more and it isn't covid. Don't ignore it. It's probably nothing serious but it could be a sign of cancer. The graphic is used as part of a Help Us Help You Campaign

We have seen the potential impact of this programme from its initial launch in January 2020. The service ran for five weeks and during that time it welcomed over 900 participants, helped to identify a number of cancers at an early stage and referred over 100 people to local stop smoking services.

As we continue to accelerate Lung Health Checks in Hull, I am incredibly optimistic that we can make a difference to lung cancer outcomes and address some of the health inequalities that exist across our region.

There is a great enthusiasm for this programme both nationally and across the Humber, Coast and Vale area, and as we collaboratively work to roll out NHS Lung Health Checks further, I am looking forward to ensuring more people can benefit from a programme that is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions for cancer.

Dr Stuart Baugh
Programme Director
Targeted Lung Health Checks in Hull

Image of the breast cancer screening unit at Castle Hill Hospital. The unit white and decorated with the NHS logo and 'Humberside Breast Screening Unit' title

Local Cancer Champion encourages others to ‘go and get checked’ after attending a breast screening appointment

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Champions | No Comments

“Go and get checked. The staff know it is a frightening time, but be assured they are equipped to deal with your fears and help you every step of the way.”

After recently attending a breast screening appointment at Castle Hill Hospital in Hull, Jennie Salisbury, a 54 year old wife, mother, nanna, and Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Champion is now urging others to do the same after hearing concerns that the fear of Covid-19 may be deterring people from attending.

Jennie said: I received a letter inviting me to a breast screening appointment back in January. Initially I was a little hesitant about going because I have been anxious to venture out during lockdown, but then I remembered the promise I made to my sister, who died from breast cancer, that I would never miss an appointment.

The national breast screening programme invites women between the ages of 50 and 70 to have their breasts screened every three years. At the start of the pandemic, the programme was temporarily paused across Humber, Coast and Vale however, the service has now resumed and safety measures have been put in place to protect both staff and patients.

Jennie said: “I noticed a lot of safety measures in place at the breast screening unit. Hand sanitisers were available and there was a lot of distance between the chairs. When called through for my appointment, the Technician was busy sanitising the equipment and during every part of the procedure she sanitised her hands. The whole appointment took 15 mins and within half an hour I was back home.”

Photo of Jennie. Jennie has blonde hair and wears glasses. She looking at the camera and smiling. Jennie is wearing a black jumper.

Jennie was pleased to receive all clear results within a week of her appointment and is now advising other women to attend, when invited. Jennie said: “My advice is to go and get checked. The staff know it is frightening times but be assured they are equipped to deal with your fears and talk to you every step of the way. Having previously attended Cancer Champion training, I know how important it is to attend cancer screening appointments and I hope that by sharing my experience, other women will feel assured about attending screening during COVID-19.”

In this video, Hull CCG GP Dr Amy Oehring explains why attending a breast screening is so important:

To learn more about the early signs and symptoms of cancer, sign up for a free 90 minute Cancer Champion awareness session or click here to find out more.

Christine, a pancreatic cancer survivor, looks into the camera and smiles. She is wearing a red sparkly long-sleeved top and has brown cropped hair.

Christine’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Living with and Beyond Cancer | No Comments

After experiencing persistent symptoms that weren’t normal for her, Christine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Here, she tells her story and explains her advice for anyone experiencing something similar.

Towards the end of January 2019, my entire body began to feel itchy. I tried everything to stop it, from soothing sprays to creams and antihistamine tablets,  but nothing worked. I wasn’t in any pain anywhere, but I felt maybe a little more tired.

On 1st February at around 3 am, I couldn’t stand the itching anymore, and asked my husband to take me to A&E, where I’d hoped they’d give me a strong antihistamine injection or some tablets to help. However, the young doctor who saw me insisted on doing a blood test, which I think saved my life.

Christine, a pancreatic cancer survivor, looks into the camera and smiles. She is wearing a red sparkly long-sleeved top and has brown cropped hair.

Christine credits a blood test in A&E for saving her life.

After waiting a while, I received my results. The doctors said there may be a blocked liver duct, but I’d need more tests to confirm this. I was allowed to go home but would return for CT scans and MRI appointments. On Monday morning, I felt ‘out of sorts’ and fainted at home. Martin, my husband, took me back to the hospital, where they kept me in for 5 days to do some tests.

Over the next few weeks, I had various other tests done. I also started being jaundiced and my urine was much darker than usual. It was evident something was seriously wrong, so an appointment was made to see the consultant at Castle Hill.

The consultant at Castle Hill confirmed I had pancreatic cancer and was faced with two options. I could either have a Whipple’s procedure, which would give me at least another five years, or do nothing, which would leave me with five to eight months.

I returned for further scans the next day and would be back in hospital on the 13th March for surgery on the 14th. I brought an overnight bag with me for my scans, so the consultant decided to keep me in until the next day for my pre-op tests. However, whilst on the ward, I needed rehydrating, and was kept in the hospital until my operation.

My operation, which required two surgeons, lasted for 10 hours and I spent 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until finally arriving home on the 5th April.I felt isolated without the ward staff but was very well looked after by Martin and by friends who would do anything for us. Some kind friends had given us a hospital bed to use at home, and Martin made a bedroom for me in the dining room. I actually stayed downstairs until January 2020!

When I left the hospital, I was given a prescription of Creon tablets, which is a medication to replace the enzymes usually made by the pancreas to break down food. I have to take these tablets with everything I eat.

I also began chemotherapy in June 2019, which I had for six months. I recovered well from this and my main problem since has been with my digestive system. I have learned to live with this, however, and I am hoping to speak to the dietician again to see if anything can be done to ease my digestive problems.

I am now 20 months on from the major surgery and delighted to say I am in remission.

I still see my oncologist every four months to have my bloods checked, and then every six months for a CT scan.

If anyone has anything ‘different’ happening to them, i.e. it’s not normal for you, seek professional advice. Although it pays to talk things over with family and friends and look online,  you can’t believe everything you’re told or see on the internet. Speak to your GP as they have the experience and knowledge to help you best. Staying positive helped me with my recovery, so I’d always recommend that!

Symptoms of pancreatic cancer can include:

  • the whites of your eyes or your skin turn yellow (jaundice), you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual
  • loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
  • feeling tired or having no energy
  • a high temperature, or feeling hot or shivery

For more information, go to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pancreatic-cancer/.

Headshot of Margaret Allbones, a cancer survivor who shared her story with us. She is smiling, looking slightly to the right of the camera, and wearing a black jumper. She has cropped blonde hair and is wearing small gold hoop earrings.

Noticing what’s normal: Margaret’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Living with and Beyond Cancer | No Comments

Mum, grandma and former Medical Secretary Margaret didn’t experience any pain before her cancer diagnosis but still booked an appointment with her GP. Here, Margaret describes her cancer journey and highlights the importance of noticing whether a symptom is ‘normal’ for you.

My cancer diagnosis came as a shock. I felt well. I didn’t have a sore throat or any pain in my mouth, and I wasn’t experiencing any problems swallowing. The only thing different was that I felt like I had a hair in my mouth and needed to swallow more often. The symptom was persistent, so after a couple of months, I used a mirror to look into my throat, where I saw what looked like a tiny eye or shiny circle, and immediately booked an appointment with my GP.

Headshot of Margaret Allbones, a cancer survivor who shared her story with us. She is smiling, looking slightly to the right of the camera, and wearing a black jumper. She has cropped blonde hair and is wearing small gold hoop earrings.

Margaret’s symptom was persistent, unexplained, and unusual for her. Talk to your GP if you’re experiencing a symptom that is any of these.

My GP referred me to a consultant who, within 10 days, organised for me to attend the hospital as a day case and have the tonsil removed. Another 10 days after that, I saw the consultant again to receive the results of a biopsy on the tonsil. The consultant informed me it was cancer, more specifically, a lymphoma. My official diagnosis was a first-grade non-Hodgkin large cell lymphoma that had been caught early.

A couple of weeks later, I went for chemotherapy. In the end, I only had two sessions of the chemo, as it made me feel really unwell, and the results proved another session wouldn’t benefit me that much. Instead, I had radiotherapy a few weeks later.

Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve tried to remain positive and keep looking forward. My role model has been my younger sister, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six months before my own diagnosis. Like me, she didn’t have many symptoms – only an itch for a week or so. She has since had an operation and is now doing well.

I lost a lot of weight because of my tonsillectomy, chemo, and radiotherapy, and have experienced other side-effects such as a sore throat, mouth, and neck. Most of my other side effects have disappeared. I’m slowly getting back to a healthy weight and have been drinking nutritional supplement milkshakes to help. I began to experience extreme tiredness after undergoing x-rays, blood tests, a colonoscopy, and taking steroids to treat a cough I’ve had since my chemotherapy. I’ve stayed in touch with my Macmillan nurse, a dietitian and my GP practice nurse throughout everything.

I have COPD and diabetes, which have both made me feel weak, but since beginning to take long daily walks on the seafront, I’ve felt so much better. I still have the cough, but I’m using medication and a Flutter to manage it. I’m also having B12 injections and taking iron tablets to reduce my tiredness.

I have been continually checked on by health professionals, and the questions they asked ensured I informed them of anything and everything that was not normal to me. They never made me feel guilty about asking questions or getting in contact a lot. Everyone was helpful and caring. They let nothing go unchecked, which is what revealed my B12 deficiency – it may have gone unnoticed for some time otherwise.

My advice to others in my position would be to stay positive and see the future as something to look forward to – always keep the little things in mind. You can’t expect every day to be good so listen to your body. If you need to sit down or sleep – do so.

Always remember to talk to your GP about any problems or symptoms concerning you and get help when you need it!

If you’re experiencing a persistent ache or pain, unexplained weight loss, or an unusual lump. Speak to your GP. Remember, if it’s persistent, unexplained, or unusual for you, it’s important to get it checked.

Over 2,020 Cancer Champions are helping to encourage early detection of cancer in Humber, Coast and Vale region

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Alliance

Over 2,020 Cancer Champions are helping to raise awareness of the symptoms of cancer and encourage early detection of cancer across Scarborough, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, Vale of York and North and North East Lincolnshire.

Detecting cancer early can increase chances of survival and the HCV Cancer Alliance’s Cancer Champion Programme aims to teach people about the early signs of cancer, and equip them with the information needed to engage in conversations about cancer.

Cancer Champions are able to use the knowledge gained from a free 90 minute session, to encourage their friends, family and colleagues to contact their GP if they are worried about a symptom of cancer, promote uptake of national cancer screening programmes and encourage healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of cancer.

Cancer awareness sessions have been delivered in local schools, businesses, community venues, and more recently online. In August 2020, HCV Cancer Alliance introduced virtual sessions after face-to-face training was paused as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Emma Lewin, Volunteer Co-ordinator for the programme, explains: “We started delivering face-to-face awareness sessions in September 2018 and had set a goal of reaching 2,020 Cancer Champions in 2020. However, during the first wave of the pandemic all sessions were paused until further notice and we had to adapt in order to continue the programme and keep sharing the important messages about knowing your body and what is and isn’t normal for you.

“By introducing virtual sessions, we were pleased to be able to continue increasing the number of people in the HCV area equipped to have those potentially life-saving conversations within local communities.”

The programme has received positive feedback from participants, with one Cancer Champion saying: “This really opened my eyes and made me realise how important it is to educate yourself, your loved ones, friends and the public on cancer and possibly catch it earlier to save someone’s life.” Another recently trained Cancer Champion said: “Given how common cancer is, it made me really think about how little I talk about it with family and friends.”

To sign up for a free 90 minute cancer awareness session or to find out more, visit https://hcvcanceralliance.org.uk/cancerchampions/

Headshot of Dr Vince Rawcliffe. He is smiling and looking into the camera, wearing a blue and white pinstripe shirt.

Health care professionals urge people in Humber, Coast and Vale to contact their GP about symptoms of lung cancer

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and health care professional across Humber, Coast and Vale are urging the public to contact their GP if experiencing symptoms of lung cancer.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of people speaking to their GP about potential symptoms of lung cancer decreased which resulted in the number of urgent cancer referrals falling to 36% in April 2020 when compared to 2019.

While the number of lung cancer referrals is back up to 65% of pre-coronavirus levels, there are still people with worrying symptoms not contacting their GP. This may be partly because the symptoms of lung cancer are very similar to the symptoms of coronavirus.

Headshot of Dr Vince Rawcliffe. He is smiling and looking into the camera, wearing a blue and white pinstripe shirt.

Dr Vince Rawcliffe, GP Lead for Cancer at NHS Hull CCG

Dr Vince Rawcliffe, GP Lead for Cancer at NHS Hull CCG explains,

“Early symptoms of lung cancer and the common symptoms of coronavirus are similar and we understand why people might be hesitant to contact their GP about these symptoms.

“A persistent cough or breathlessness, coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss and tiredness or an ache or pain when breathing or coughing are all early signs of lung cancer. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, please give your GP a call. The sooner you tell us about these symptoms, the sooner we can help you.

“If you’re suffering from a high temperature, a new, continuous cough that feels dry, breathlessness or a change in your sense of smell or taste, it may be coronavirus. Book a test and self-isolate until you’ve received your results. If your results are negative and your symptoms persist, book an appointment with your GP.“

Early diagnosis of cancer can often mean treatment is simpler and more effective. 70% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage.  However, research has revealed that almost half (48%) of the public would delay or not seek medical help at all about a potential cancer symptom.

Image of Dr Stuart Baugh standing in front of a brick wall. Stuart is wearing a suit and is looking at the camera smiling.

Dr Stuart Baugh, Clinical Director for Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance

Dr Stuart Baugh, Clinical Director for Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance said,

“We want to help anyone experiencing symptoms of lung cancer. It’s important we see you early when treatment may be more effective.

“If you are invited to visit the hospital for an x-ray appointment, please attend. There are a range of measures in place to make it safer for both you and staff including PPE and COVID-19 secure areas. The NHS is still here for you and from the start of the pandemic in March to the end of August, 93% of people urgently referred for cancer were seen within 2 weeks.”

Meet the Team: Cancer Champions

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis, Cancer Alliance, Cancer Champions

Over the last two years, Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance have helped to raise awareness of cancer by delivering free Cancer Champion awareness sessions to over 2,000 people across the Humber, Coast and Vale region.

Here you can find out more about the trainers behind the programme, as Emma, Zoe and Sarah share information about the programme, their roles and what it means to be a Cancer Champion.

Photo of Emma Lewin, volunteer co-ordinator is stood in front of a brick wall holdig a photo prop of the Cancer Champions logo. Emma is looking at the camera and smiling. She has blonde shoulder length hair, a fringe and glasses. She is wearing a pink top and grey trousers.

Emma Lewin
Volunteer Co-ordinator

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I have worked for the NHS for 8 years in administrative roles after working in the private sector in a variety of industries. I received a Business Administration degree last year (quite a few years after leaving school at the age of 16).

I have a 10 year old daughter and was very proud when she was telling me about the nurse coming to her school to talk about “body changes” and they mentioned about breast checking and how important this is. She told them, “I already know about this, as mummy talks about doing this in her job”.

What is the best part of your job?
I have loved getting out and about to deliver the Cancer Champion sessions around Humber, Coast and Vale area over the last 2 years and have met hundreds of people, helped make them aware about the early signs and symptoms of cancer and heard their stories.

During the first lockdown, we were able to develop our Cancer Champion workshops so that we could continue to deliver them albeit virtually, so that we can continue sharing the important messages about cancer and screening.

What does delivering Cancer Champion awareness sessions mean to you?
I was diagnosed in 2002 with a benign brain tumour and received stereotactic radiotherapy which shrank it in size and meant that no further treatment was required. I also have friends and family who have been diagnosed with cancer and this is something that inspires me to want to help more people to be aware of those early signs and symptoms of cancer and help them to seek assistance early.

If you share one piece of advice about cancer, what would it be?
Know your body – what is “normal” for you and be aware if anything changes; a lump that appears, a cough that doesn’t clear or sudden weight loss/gain without trying and that if something changes to seek medical assistance.

Sarah Patten
Project Officer

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I joined the Cancer Champion programme in 2019 after my best friend was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She was only 36, had two young children and was recently separated from her husband. I’ll never forget her words “I have breast cancer, I’m scared I’m going to die”. Thankfully the cancer hadn’t spread and I supported her through her cancer treatment, seeing first hand, the impact her diagnosis had, on both her and her family. It was at the same time I learnt that 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

As a Cancer Champion trainer, I love being able to inspire people to feel confident talking about cancer and to promote the importance of the NHS cancer screening programmes, all of which aim to detect cancer at an early stage.

Photo of Sarah Patten stood in front of a brick wall. Sarah has short dark hair and is looking at the camera smiling. She is holding a photo prop which is of an enlarged Cancer Champion logo.

What is the best part of your job?
Receiving the ‘Cancer Champion Pledges’ after each session.   It’s fantastic when you read what impact the session has had and reading how Cancer Champions plan to use their ‘new’ knowledge about cancer, signs and symptoms and to share our vital cancer messages. A great example, “I pledge to encourage my children to get into good habits of self-checking themselves on a regular basis and to continue to do so. I also now have the information and knowledge to talk confidently and sign post people I come into contact with regarding getting checked out when necessary.”

What does delivering Cancer Champion awareness sessions mean to you?
I feel extremely privileged to be able to support people to recognise the early signs and symptoms of cancer, and truly believe that our programme of awareness makes a huge difference, enabling people to detect cancer as early as possible. It’s fantastic to be able to embrace the new ‘virtual’ world of delivering Cancer Champion awareness sessions, allowing us to reach many more people over a large geographical area.

If you share one piece of advice about cancer, what would it be?
Try to surround yourself with a network of people who remind you regularly how fantastic you’re doing, who encourage you to share how you’re feeling, remind you to celebrate the good days and accept there will be bad days. #itsokaytonotbeokay

Photo of Zoe Bounds standing in front of a brick wall. Zoe is holding a photo prop of the Cancer Champion logo. Zoe is smiling and has shoulder length, dark, hair.

Zoe Bounds
Project Officer

Tell us a little bit about yourself
First and foremost I’m a Mum to 4 amazing children. I’m an ex special needs teacher and twice cancer survivor having had Ovarian cancer in 1995 at the age of 17 and Breast cancer in 2013 at 35. I originate from the Midlands and brought my children up in Cornwall. Whilst I miss the Cornish beaches, I’m very much at home here in York, especially having found a couple of stunning beaches on the Yorkshire coast.  I run a local breast cancer support charity in my spare time and my weekends are spent walking my dog Riley, watching my son play football or cooking with my daughter. I can bake far too well and I crochet not well enough.

What is the best part of your job?
Making a lasting, often life-long impact on people’s lives. The messages we deliver can be passed out far and wide as well as down the generations and have the potential to save many lives. Recently, I had a message from someone had heard me speak about cancer awareness. She wrote “A few months ago I found a lump. Thanks to you I knew how to check. It turned out it was ‘just’ a cyst but if it hadn’t been for you I might not have known to check myself regularly. I just wanted to say thank you and keep doing what you do”. This is all the evidence I need to continue to have a passion for spreading cancer awareness.

What does delivering Cancer Champion awareness sessions mean to you?
It’s personal. I often joke that I’m so fed up of cancer forcing its way into my life that I have taken this job to gain some control over which area of my life it is involved with… but seriously, I do want to combine my cancer experiences with my teaching skills to try and limit the amount of people who have similar experiences to mine as both my cancers were found at stage 3, so my treatments have been gruelling and left me with lifelong side effects, as well as seriously impacting on my family and friends around me.

If you share one piece of advice about cancer, what would it be?
Cancer isn’t going away any time soon, so let’s protect ourselves with the information we need to spot cancers at the earliest possible stage, so that they can be treated less invasively and have the most successful outcomes. I’m sure we’d all agree that cancer isn’t the most cheery of subjects, but knowing that 1 in 2 people in the UK will develop cancer in their life time and that more than 50% of people diagnosed with cancer survive it, clearly shows that cancer isn’t necessarily a death sentence anymore.

The Cancer Champion team do our best to make the session light and add some humour and we know it’s well received. One of our recently trained Cancer Champions told us “In those short 90 minutes I leant so much about cancer and also really enjoyed myself – something I didn’t expect with such a serious topic!”

Become a Cancer Champion

It’s easier than you think to make a difference. Take part in free a 90 minute cancer awareness session and learn how to spot the early signs and symptoms of cancer.

Sign Up
Beckie, a girl in her mid-20s, standing in front of a canal in Prague, smiling at the camera. It's night time and the canal is lit up.

Visiting my GP practice during COVID-19: Beckie’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis | No Comments

Beckie, 25, attended her very first cervical screening appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Beckie shares her experience of visiting her GP practice with the new measures in place and explains why it’s so important to attend an appointment if you’re invited.

Cervical cancer often has no early symptoms, which makes it difficult to spot when treatment can be most effective. Because of this, the best way to prevent and treat cervical cancer is by attending a cervical screening appointment when invited.

When I first received my invitation, my first port of call was Jo’s Trust; a cervical cancer charity aiming to provide useful and accurate information on cervical cancer to women and people with a cervix. In the UK, we are invited for a cervical screening appointment (you may have also heard of it being called a smear test) from the ages 25 to 64. Most people receive their first invite up to six months before their 25th birthday, which is exactly when one dropped through my letterbox, too.

Since then, a lot of NHS services have been put on hold or changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so my experience was a little different to what others may have had in the past. Cervical screening appointments are safely going ahead, however, so on the 11th August, I jumped in the car and headed to Hessle Grange Medical Practice for my very first appointment.

When I arrived, I was met by signs asking patients to put on their face covering, as well as a hand sanitiser station for me to use. There were clear markings on the floor to show you where to stand to maintain social distancing, and the reception was guarded by a Perspex screen. Many of the waiting room chairs had been taped across so that those waiting could easily keep their distance from other patients.

I was directed to another waiting room, closer to where I’d have my appointment, and the seating again was well spaced out.

Beckie, a girl in her mid-20s,, smiling at the camera. She has blonde hair that's just longer than her shoulders, blue eyes and a piercing in her left nostril.

Beckie says her cervical screening appointment was too important to miss.

I was called into my appointment where the two nurses were also wearing face masks and protective gloves. They instantly made me feel so comfortable, as I’d heard a lot of different things about the cervical screening procedure which had left me feeling a little anxious.

The nurses carefully explained to me exactly what was going to happen and what I could expect to feel. Naturally, I was still feeling nervous but felt confident I was in good hands.

The full screening from start to finish lasted less than five minutes. As the sample was taken, I experienced less than 30 seconds of mild discomfort and felt no pain whatsoever. The nurses talked to me throughout to take my mind off of what was happening and I can honestly say the anxiety building up to the appointment completely outweighed the actual experience.

To others in my position, I would say that this appointment is too important to miss. A moment of slight discomfort is nothing compared to the damage and pain that cervical cancer could cause. For me, being in the know about what is going on with my body, and the fact that I don’t have a potentially life-threatening disease alleviates any worries I had about going to the appointment.

There is nothing embarrassing about doing this, and definitely nothing to worry about. I would encourage anyone who receives the letter to go to their appointment – it could be what saves your life!

Note from Humber, Coast and Vale Cancer Alliance

Cervical cancer is when abnormal cells in the lining of the cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and eventually form a growth or tumour. If not caught early, cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues and may spread to other areas of the body1. In Yorkshire and the Humber and Humber, Coast and Vale, 29% of cervical cancers are detected through screening2.

Cervical cancer often has no early symptoms, which is why it’s important to attend a cervical screening when you’re invited.

If you experience symptoms of cervical cancer at any time, even if you’ve recently attended a screening appointment, get in touch with your GP. Your symptoms might not be cancer, but you should never ignore them. For more information on cervical cancer, visit https://www.jostrust.org.uk/

Early diagnosis saves lives.

  1. Definition from Cancer Research UK: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cervical-cancer/about
  2. Statistic from Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Summary Report 2020
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