Tower Hamlets residents’ knowledge of potential cancer symptoms is lower than people living in any other borough in the capital according to research published recently.
Figures released for Cancer Awareness month published in the British Journal of Cancer placed the borough at the bottom of a table ranking London boroughs.
East London’s residents proved the worst in realising, and being aware of, potential cancer symptoms. Researchers put the findings down to barriers such as language, education and deprivation.
They surveyed over 35,000 people in England by the Cancer Research UK Cancer Awareness Measure by calculating the age, sex and type of cancer.
Ross Little, health care projects manager at Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “You’ll usually find awareness is lower where there’s potentially areas of deprivation and possibly and some ethnic minority groups, where perhaps the communication and language barriers could potentially be an issue because there’s lot of different awareness things out there but it’s not written in a way that’s easy for someone to understand if it’s not in their language.
“Even if it is quite mild symptoms or something they’re not sure about, if something is not right in the body, regardless of what it is, always make an appointment with your GP. We encourage people to get to know their bodies and what’s normal for them. If they experience something out of the ordinary and it is persistence, go and see your GP as its always worth getting it checked out just to be on the safe side.”
A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: “Tower Hamlets and Newham have among the highest proportion of residents in England living in households where English is not spoken.”
They added: “Around 650 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in Tower Hamlets residents. Of these, about 100 are lung cancer, 70 are breast cancer, 60 are bowel cancer and 40 are prostate cancer.”
Ginny Stuart, who manages a cancer awareness project with Women’s Health & Family Services, said that the project was “funded from public health to train local volunteers who have got bilingual skills to raise awareness of the early symptoms of bowel, breast and lung cancer. This is because it’s proven through having cancer, if you detect symptoms at the early stage of cancer, nine out 10 people survive it after five years. If you detect it at late stage cancer, one out of 10 people survive it.
She added: “The Tower Hamlets council cut all the funding. Our funding had stopped and we had two more partners in the borough, Age UK and neighbours in Poplar. As a result of the public health having a seven per cent cut across all their services nationally they had to cut all services raising awareness for cancer.”