Pharmacy campaign to promote early diagnosis of cancer

Be Cancer Aware LW

A campaign that aims to promote the early diagnosis of cancer by raising awareness of the signs and symptoms has been launched in community pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland as part of the Living Well service.

Be Cancer Aware highlights the role of community pharmacy in providing advice and support, and encourages people who may be experiencing symptoms to talk to their GP without delay.

The campaign, which will run throughout August and September, also aims to promote lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of developing cancers and encourages anyone who wants to make positive changes but needs help to speak to their pharmacist.

Living Well, offered in over 500 pharmacies across Northern Ireland, provides information and advice on public health issues. It is delivered in partnership with the Public Health Agency (PHA), Community Pharmacy NI (CPNI), and the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).

Dr Louise Herron, Consultant in Service Development and Screening at the PHA, said:

“The earlier cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival as treatment is more likely to be successful. During the COVID-19 pandemic many people may have concerns about a change they have noticed in their body, but might be hesitant to contact their GP. However, it is important not to delay going to your GP if you develop a sign or symptom which has the potential to be cancer.

“We are urging people to get checked early if they have any concerns. It is important for everyone to be aware of warning signs which need to be investigated. Spotting cancer early could save your life.”

Common signs and symptoms of cancer to be aware of:

• coughing up blood;

• blood in urine;

• blood mixed through bowel motion (stools);

• a change in bowel habit that lasts for more than three weeks;

• unexplained, significant weight loss (5kg/10lbs over a couple of months);

• an unusual lump or swelling anywhere on the body;

• changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels, or changes to an existing mole (such as itching, bleeding or a change in shape or colour);

• a sore that doesn’t heal;

• symptoms that won’t clear up, for example- a cough or hoarseness that lasts three

  weeks or more.

Claire Hewitt, Pharmacy Manager at Gordons Chemists in Lisburn, said:

“Community pharmacies are at the heart of our local communities with the public recognising pharmacists as trusted healthcare professionals. This makes community pharmacy the ideal setting to help encourage people to look after their health by engaging in initiatives such as the Be Cancer Aware campaign.

”We can help support you make those lifestyle changes that could reduce your risk of cancer. The first step is simple, just ask your pharmacist for advice.”

As part of the campaign, community pharmacies across Northern Ireland are providing free information booklets, ‘Be Cancer Aware - Spotting symptoms and reducing your risk’, to members of the public.

In addition to the campaign materials, further information can be found at The website supports the cancer awareness campaign and provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if concerned and signposts individuals to recommended sources of support and further information.

Notes to the editor

Photo caption: Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, and Claire Hewitt, Pharmacy Manager at Gordons Chemists, launched the Be Cancer Aware campaign at Bow Street in Lisburn. The campaign will run throughout August and September in over 500 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland through Living Well, a service that provides information and advice on public health issues.