Case study

Raising awareness of bowel cancer symptoms: Be Clear on Cancer

This 2012 campaign encouraged people to see their doctor if they have had blood in their poo or looser poo for the last 3 weeks.

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Summary

The aim of the campaign was to encourage more people with these symptoms to go and see their GP earlier, particularly those from lower socioeconomic groups over the age of 50.

It used TV, online and outdoor advertising and was supported by PR.

The first regional pilot ran from January to March 2011. It then ran nationally for the first time from January to March 2012.

A ‘reminder’ campaign ran from August to September 2012 to keep the message front of mind.

Following that, 3 areas of England piloted different approaches to keep the campaign running from October 2012 to Mid-March 2013.

What were the results?

The campaign evaluation found:

  • the regional and national bowel cancer campaigns showed a statistically significant increase in awareness of the campaign message
  • the first national campaign resulted in an increase in the public’s unprompted awareness of blood in poo (27% to 42%) and looser poo (10% to 23%)
  • there was a statistically significant increase in urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer: 40% for the first national campaign; 29% for the reminder campaign

A paper that examined the campaign was published in British Journal of Cancer on 3 March 2015: impact of national cancer awareness campaigns for bowel and lung cancer symptoms on sociodemographic inequalities in immediate key symptom awareness and GP attendances.

The paper said that:

  • the campaign showed a significantly greater increase in awareness of blood in stools in the age group 75+ years compared with the 55 to 74 age group, and of looser stools in men compared with women

  • there were significant increases in GP attendances for symptoms directly linked to the campaigns; the largest percentage increase in the 50 to 59 age group; for the bowel campaign, the increase was significantly greater for men and for practices in the most-deprived quintile

  • the national bowel and lung campaigns reached their target audience and have also influenced younger and more affluent groups

Next steps

Sheila Mitchell, Health Marketing and Public Engagement Director, Public Health England (PHE), said:

Be Clear on Cancer launched in 2011 in order to support earlier diagnosis of cancer and improve survival rates. Campaigns are tested locally and regionally before they are rolled out nationally. We have run campaigns on a number of different cancer sites and we continue to run campaigns and to review evidence to inform future activity.

We are currently exploring with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the potential of running a pilot for Be Clear on Cancer that focuses on awareness of bowel screening. This would be building on work that CRUK has run to date.

Further information

Be Clear on Cancer is a cancer awareness campaign led by PHE, working in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England. Further details on the campaigns can be found on NHS Choices or via our campaign resource centre.

Please contact partnerships@phe.gov.uk for more information.

Published 27 June 2016