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Awareness and Early Diagnosis

Headshot of Graham, a Lung Health Check participant. He's wearing a white t shirt and glasses.

Graham’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis

“I first became aware of the Lung Health Check service in March 2020, when me and my wife were invited to attend an appointment at Lidl car park. I wasn’t worried about my health at the time but there was a history of lung cancer in my family, so I thought there’s no harm in getting checked.

“The appointment was booked for the 30th of March, but like a lot of things impacted by Covid-19 I got a phone call to say it would need to be postponed because of lockdown. As soon as the service restarted, we were booked in to speak with someone who asked a few questions about our family and smoking history.

Headshot of Graham, a Lung Health Check participant. He's wearing a white t shirt and glasses.

Graham was surprised at the impact the appointment has had on his life.

“This time we were given an appointment to have a CT scan in Castle Hill Hospital car park. It was easy to attend because a free parking space had been reserved for us and being able to book a similar appointment time as my wife was also a big help. The staff onboard the unit talked us through what to expect and we both had a scan, which was quick and painless. I never thought that appointment would have such a big impact on my life, but a week later I was sat in front of a consultant being told they had found something on my lung. We started to discuss treatment options and I was given the name of a Macmillan nurse who would later be in touch.

“Was I worried? Yes. Did I wish I hadn’t of known? No. I felt incredibly lucky to be receiving help and with the support of my family and friends, I made the decision to have part of my left lung removed. The operation took place in June 2021, and I have since received confirmation that it was cancer.

“The last few months have been a lot to take in and although I’m pleased not to need chemotherapy or radiotherapy, I’m still receiving ongoing care and help with my breathing. I also have weekly calls with the SmokeFree team, who have helped me stop vaping, and the Macmillan nurse has provided fantastic support throughout.

“Although my wife and her two brothers, who also took part in the lung health check service, have had very different experiences to me, I truly believe they are all equally as positive. My wife is now receiving support for slight COPD and her brothers were quickly reassured that their lungs are healthy.

“My friend has recently been invited to take part in a lung health check and I’m now urging him and others to go. He said he’s really sorry for what I’ve been through and is scared about what the service might find, but I’ve told him not to be sorry or scared. That lung health check saved my life.”

Headshot of Catherine, a lung health check participant. She has long black hair and is smiling.

Catherine’s story

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis

As a Hull resident, who is aged 58 and a current smoker, Catherine was invited to attend a lung health check in July 2021. Here Catherine tells us what happened next and why she is now encouraging others to take part.

Headshot of Catherine, a lung health check participant. She has long black hair and is smiling.

Catherine has cut down on smoking since her appointment.

“After speaking with a lung health check nurse on the phone, I was invited to Castle Hill hospital for a CT scan. The scanner was on board a mobile unit in the hospital car park and although going through the tunnel was a bit scary, the staff were really friendly, and it was fine.

“Two weeks after attending Castle Hill Hospital, I was diagnosed with emphysema. I felt surprised and gutted. I’ve been a smoker for 45 years and although my GP had previously advised me to stop, being told I had emphysema hit me for six. I knew I needed to make a change and thought of my daughter and granddaughter.”

“This wasn’t my first attempt at stopping smoking. I had managed to cut down to five cigarettes a day before covid, but I struggled to smoke less during the pandemic and decided to take up the offer of help from SmokeFree Hull.

“They’ve been a great support so far and I receive weekly phone calls to check how I’m getting on. Being able to trial the use of patches and vapes has helped me to cut down and in the last two weeks, I’ve only smoked six cigarettes.

“It hasn’t been easy but I’m already starting to notice some small differences. When I bike to work, the Anlaby Road flyover feels like less of a hill to climb and I’ve been able to do some extra exercise on the rowing machine at home.

“It’s been just over a month since my lung health check and finding out I have emphysema has been really hard, especially as my partner lost someone to this previously. For that reason, I feel extremely lucky to have caught it early and to be getting help and support from my family and the NHS.

“Having that check has made a big difference to my life and I’ve already encouraged my friend to take up her appointment.”

To read the experiences of other patients of the lung health check programme, please click here.

Picture shows a group of people sat round tables holding red flags.

Cancer ‘Red Flag’ roadshows for people with Learning Disabilities

By | Awareness and Early Diagnosis | No Comments

Over the next few months, People First Merseyside will be delivering peer led training for people with learning disabilities (and their families and carers) across the Humber, Coast and Vale region. The free training sessions, which have been co-produced by people with Learning Disabilities, are designed to raise awareness of how to have good lung health and teach the signs and symptoms of cancer within a fun and interactive environment.

Scarborough
Monday 13th September, 1pm – 3pm at Community Centre (The Street), 12 Lower Clark Street, Scarborough, YO12 7PW

Selby
Friday 17th September 2021, 1.30pm – 3.30pm Portholme Church, Portholme Road, Selby, YO8 4QH

Harrogate
Thursday 16th September 2021, 1pm—3pm at Follifoot Village Hall, Tofts Lane, Harrogate, HG3 1DY

York
Friday 17th September 2021 9.30am — 11.30am Priory Street Centre, Main Hall, 15 Priory Street, York YO1 6ET

Richmond / Northallerton
Tuesday 14th September, 9.30am -11.30am at Northallerton Town Hall, High Street, Northallerton, DL7 8QR

To book your place, please contact 07864968132 / nyccg.engagement@nhs.net

Thirsk
Tuesday 14th September, 1pm – 3pm at Wellburn Village Hall, Church Lane, Wellburn, YO60 7EG

To book your place, please contact Julie Butterworth: 07427 991 920 / Julie.butterworth2@nhs.net

Hull
Wednesday 3rd November, 1pm – 3pm
Thursday 4th November 2021, 10am – 12pm / 1pm – 3pm
CASE Training, 60 Charles Street, Hull, HU2 8DQ

To book your place, please contact Mark Cooke: 01482 320 200 / markc@casetraininghull.co.uk

Picture shows a group of people sat round tables holding red flags.
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/

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