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Forum Focus: Be Clear on Cancer Campaign

The RCN Cancer and Breast Care Forum is supporting Public Health England’s Be Clear on Cancer Campaign to raise awareness of the respiratory symptoms of a persistent cough and breathlessness. 

The campaign, which runs until October, encourages people with relevant symptoms to see their GP, with the aim of diagnosing more cases of cancer, lung disease and heart disease earlier.

 persistent coughing
Persistent coughing and breathlessness may be symptoms of lung cancer. Pic: Alamy

It caught my attention because it has been some time since I had thought about the diagnosis of heart disease, non-malignant lung diseases and lung cancer simultaneously. I am sure I am not alone; cardiology nurses may not think about cancer and heart disease together.

While it makes sense to do so because the early pre-diagnosis symptoms can appear similar – and indeed, many of our patients may have both conditions – it also reminded me that diagnosing cancer is not an exact science. Hopefully campaigns like this will initiate fresh and different conversations by the public and health professionals about groups of diseases that are seen across the population.   

Multi- and comorbidities

The campaign informs the overall strategy as set out in the cancer plan for England to change the approach to prevention and public health. Healthcare systems have largely focused on individual diseases rather than on multimorbidity or those with two or more comorbidities, with past messages opting to follow the traditional model of targeting single diseases.

Although this approach has been relatively successful, taking a broader view and covering more conditions than cancer may prove effective in the long term. It would also be an important step forward in managing the rising prevalence of people with comorbidities. 

With the increasing incidence of cancer and longer survival, most nurses in health and social care settings will meet or care for a person affected by cancer daily. Irrespective of specialty, nurses are uniquely placed to challenge and influence not only cancer outcomes, but also other disease-specific outcomes.

For more information, see:  

Dr Susanne Cruickshank, Chair, RCN Cancer and Breast Care Forum

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