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Scottish Cancer Prevention Network | Putting Prevention First

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Screening

World Cancer Day – time to reflect on cancer prevention

Initially, the headline sounded good… “Decrease in the numbers of cancers diagnosed” – until you read the sub-title about diminished screening services, fear of going to GP’s and reduced access to diagnostic facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic (ScotGov2021)

If only we could decrease the numbers of people getting cancers especially late-stage disease and reduce incidence across all peoples- from poorest to richest from Northern and Southern hemispheres. We focus so much on early diagnosis (ScotGov, staging, 2021) as a way of reducing cancer morbidity (and mortality) but the lens on prevention has got very cloudy in the last couple of years. Focusing on health behaviours at a time when COVID-19 related stress and anxieties have risen has not become easier. We have watched obesity figures increase and greater alcohol consumption across  the Scottish population (SHS,2021).

As COVID-19 recedes it must be time to put health, not disease centre stage. Sadly, there are few vaccinations for preventing cancers – and where these do exist (like cervical cancer) we can see major differences in incidence (NHSScotland, 2022). For the most frequently occurring cancers, lifestyle matters a lot – almost 40% of cancers can be prevented and there might be good reasons for focussing on those cancers that are rising in Scotland which include kidney, prostate and uterus – all of which are obesity related. 

There is, however, increasingly good news as more research shows that weight loss can decrease risk in key obesity cancers including breast and bowel. These findings show that the damage created by excess body fat (and the mechanisms related to cancer development) can be reduced and it’s not too late to make a difference to change health and well-being. Like smoking cessation, weight management provides an opportunity to get some control back into our lives and to plan, one step at a time, how we want to lead in times of lower COVID risk.
The USA have reignited their Cancer moonshot – an ambitious plan to reduce the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent over the next 25 years. Scotland has been a health exemplar in many ways and now it is time to seriously plan an equally ambitious and equitable cancer reduction plan that can also contribute to diminishing inequalities in health.

Professor Annie S. Anderson & Professor Bob Steele

Breast Cancer Now Volunteers Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer 

In Scotland, every year around 4,700 people are diagnosed with breast cancer. Raising awareness of breast cancer is key to achieving Breast Cancer Now’s vision that by 2050, everyone diagnosed with breast cancer will live and be supported to live well. To improve survival rates, people with breast cancer must be diagnosed as early as possible, when the chances of successful treatment are at their highest. 

Continue reading “Breast Cancer Now Volunteers Raising Awareness of Breast Cancer “

The causes of cancer: implications for policy and practice

Professor Richard Martin, University of Bristol

Around 1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer in their lifetime (Cancer Research UK). Over 40% of cancers are linked to a combination of 14 major lifestyle and environmental factors that are potentially preventable. The Integrative Cancer Epidemiology Programme (ICEP) uses cutting edge statistical methods and genetic data on 10s to 100s of thousands of people to provide high quality evidence on: the causes of cancers; factors influencing the progression of cancer; new ways to predict who will develop or die from these cancers; and new ways to prevent cancer and its progression. 

Continue reading “The causes of cancer: implications for policy and practice”

FIT – a little goes a long way

Faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin (FIT) are now used in asymptomatic bowel screening programmes and also in assessment of patients presenting with lower bowel symptoms.  FIT specimen collection devices have a stick attached to the cap of the tube: this stick has dimples or grooves near the end to collect the correct amount of faeces. Our instructions are simple, namely, “dip the end of the stick into your poo” and “scrape the end of the stick along the sample”, and have pictures of exactly what sample is required. However, many seem surprised at how little faeces is collected, only 2 mg in the FIT used in Scotland for both clinical purposes.  Interestingly, some assume that more must be better and do try very hard to give a little (or a lot) extra in the device!  To date, very little attention has been paid to this aspect of FIT.  Recently, however, a very relevant paper has been published.1

Continue reading “FIT – a little goes a long way”

Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on

The Scottish Bowel Screening programme is over ten years old. Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce systematic screening for bowel cancer and the first in the UK to offer testing to people aged 50. Lots of lessons have been learned along the way including how to improve the screening test and uptake.

Here are some reflections on current screening from Professor Bob Steele….

Continue reading “Scottish Bowel Screening programme – reflections 10 years on”

Medical student: What the 12 codes against cancer taught me about cancer prevention

During first year of medical school, I walked in to my nutrition tutorial eating chocolate buttons and I was told off by the person undertaking the session. I proceeded to place the chocolate in my bag, listen to how we need to eat our “five a day” and minimise sugar intake and then left the class to finish off my chocolate. During the first three years of medical school, we are taught about a long list of conditions that result from an unhealthy lifestyle. This comes in contrast with the very little teaching we get on lifestyle modification. So, if my teaching on this topic is limited, how am I expected to embrace this lifestyle myself and subsequently deliver it effectively to my patients? Continue reading “Medical student: What the 12 codes against cancer taught me about cancer prevention”

Do We Forget About Men?

Monday marked the start of #MensHealthWeek  so are WE as a nation doing enough to help men look after their health?!  We know when it comes to health, men are less likely to talk to each other about their concerns and are less likely to visit their GP so here are some, perhaps surprising, facts about men… Continue reading “Do We Forget About Men?”

Don’t Stop Taking the Medicine

A false positive result – a positive test for occult blood in faeces with no significant disease subsequently found on colonoscopy – is quite a common finding in bowel screening programmes. One of the reasons given for this is that bleeding into the gut could occur other than when colorectal neoplasia is present, including in participants using oral anti-coagulants (OCs) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin (NSAIDs). Of course, these medicines are commonly used in the 50-74 year old population invited for bowel screening in Scotland. Continue reading “Don’t Stop Taking the Medicine”

Paper of the Year 2017: Susan Moug

We asked SCPN friends and advisors to tell us about a report/paper/findings/work on cancer screening and prevention that has been published this year and has made them stop and think. The works span a wide range of areas from very detailed scientific investigation, reviews of physical activities, and blogs of model work. We find them a complete inspiration. When only 3% of the NCRI research budget is spent on prevention and virtually nil on implementation research; these papers provide a window on some of the very good reasons why cancer screening and prevention should be a leading part of cancer control research.

Continue reading “Paper of the Year 2017: Susan Moug”

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