Struggle to get to grips with city cancer rate

News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.
News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

Sheffield is struggling to drive down the number of deaths from cancer - with mortality rates in the city higher than the national average.

For every 100,000 residents, 185 lives were claimed over two years, which compares with the national picture of 172 deaths per 100,000 for the same period, 2009 to 2011.

Senior Sheffield cancer medic Dr Patricia Fisher said unhealthy lifestyles and industrial illnesses are the main factors causing the disease, and that it is vital patients visit their GP with any concerns.

The city council said public health workers are currently trying “extremely hard” to raise awareness of symptoms and break down taboos around seeking medical help.

Local statistics released by Cancer Research UK map survival and incidence rates for different cancers across towns and cities in England. Cancer deaths among under-75s in Sheffield were also higher than average, but there was good news for the city’s hospitals.

Almost all cancer patients receive their first treatment within 31 days and one-year survival rates are higher than average.

Joanne Coy, health improvement practitioner at Sheffield City Council, said: “The key message is very simple - know your body and what is normal for you. “Get any unexplained changes checked out by your doctor, if they are still troubling you after three or four weeks.

“The chances are that it won’t be cancer and you will have peace of mind, but if it is cancer then you will have greatly increased your chances of making a good recovery by finding and treating it at an early stage.”

Death rates for breast, bowel and prostate cancer are in line with the rest of the country - but the incidence of lung cancer is higher, with nearly 60 per 100,000 developing the deadly disease, 11 higher than average.

The overall incidence rate was higher than average, too - 423 cases in every 100,000 compared with 398 nationally.

Dr Fisher, clinical director of oncology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, which runs the specialist Weston Park cancer hospital, said: “Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, diet and alcohol, as well as industrial exposure increase the prevalence of cancer in cities like Sheffield.

“However the good news is that our one-year survival rate is above the national average and Weston Park hospital has some of the UK’s most innovative equipment and best facilities, which are currently being expanded with a new complex therapy unit.”

Coun Mary Lea, the council’s cabinet member for health, care and independent living, said: “Colleagues in public health are working extremely hard at the moment to increase awareness of cancer symptoms and signs to encourage people to seek help as early as possible, and to break down some of the taboos and barriers around accessing medical assistance.”

Screening programmes for cervical, breast and bowel cancer are also playing their part in making early diagnoses, the council said.

More than four in 10 cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise, quitting smoking and improving diet.