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South Reading Cancer Champions

A pioneering project to raise cancer awareness and education amongst the culturally diverse populations and deprived communities of South Reading has been a major success.

The project has trained 25 volunteers from these communities to become cancer champions. Together they have run 43 separate awareness sessions reaching more than 1,700 people in South Reading since the project’s launch two years ago.

Dr Kajal Patel, Berkshire West CCG’s Cancer Lead, said: ‘We know there is a lack of awareness and understanding of cancer among ethnic minority and deprived communities in South Reading. Too often this means when people from these communities are diagnosed with cancer, it’s picked up late, leading to poorer survival rates. What’s more, they tend not to access the cancer care that’s available to them and that they need.

“But as a result of this project, the communities have told us they now feel they have a voice regarding cancer, a better understanding of it and of treatment, and they are more engaged with health professionals and services. This makes them more likely to take up screening opportunities and speak to GPs regarding their concerns, which in turn makes an early diagnosis more likely, and should improve survival rates,” added Dr Patel.

“Health professionals have also embraced the project and it’s given them a much better knowledge of the barriers these communities face. We are extremely pleased with the successful way the project’s been implemented and the way communities have worked with us on it,” she added.

The 25 volunteers underwent an intensive 12-week training programme from Macmillan Cancer Support to become cancer champions and they now reach out to their own communities to spread the word. They include people from eight community groups including Polish, Nepalese, Punjabi, Sudanese, Afro Caribbean, Pakistani as well as people who are deaf or members of the LGBT community.

Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Macmillan Cancer Support and Rushmoor Healthy Living (RHL) worked together to deliver the project, which turned the traditional method of raising cancer awareness, through promotion and leaflets, on its head by using a community-first approach.

The champions are now familiar faces at 16 GP practices in South Reading where they provide a range of support for people. This could be translating during consultations, accompanying them to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, liaising with hospital transport, visiting them on the wards or back at home after treatment.

It is expecting this approach will help increase survival rates in South Reading over the coming years, and it may even save lives.

Macmillan Cancer Support funded the project with £153,000 of charitable funds.

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