HEALTH chiefs have been handed £100,000 to help NHS professionals spot early signs of two cancers.

Each year in the county more than 150 people die of bowel cancer and 230 of lung cancer. Experts believe if cancer is picked up at an early stage, survival rates can be as high as 95 per cent as opposed to five per cent if it is picked up in the later stages.

There are concerns that GPs, pharmacy staff and community health workers are not fully trained to pick up the telltale early warning signals.

It is hoped the cash, given to NHS Oxfordshire by the Department of Health, will help improve early detection rates.

Dr Tom Porter, consultant in public health at NHS Oxfordshire, said: “We hope by raising awareness of signs and symptoms of bowel and lung cancer that people experiencing them will go to their GP who can organise any tests which might be needed.

“The earlier cancer is picked up, the earlier treatment can start – and we know early treatment can save lives.”

The cash has been given to NHS Oxfordshire, which decides where NHS funds go in the county, for trials involving three other authorities in the South East.

It will also be sending out home test bowel cancer kits to everyone aged 60 to 69 – the most likely age group to contract bowel cancer – over the next two years.

Care services minister Paul Burstow said: “Cancer affects us all. We all have a story of someone we love battling the disease. Our aim is simple – we want to save many more lives and achieve cancer survival rates among the best in the world.

“In England we are lagging behind other European countries when it comes to the common but big killer cancers such as breast, bowel and lung.

“We know that the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook.”

Mum of three Wendy Martin, 54, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006.

The Kingfisher Drive, Banbury, resident, said: “I know this sort of things works.

“I think it is a wonderful thing.”

  • The most common symptom of bowel cancer is blood in the stool or faeces or a change in bowel habit that lasts four weeks or more.

Symptoms can include going to the toilet more often and having looser, diarrhoea-like motions, perhaps alternating with periods of constipation.

Other possible signs are a feeling of not completely emptying your bowels or passing mucus with your stools.

Other symptoms to watch out for are unexplained weight loss, pain that comes and goes in waves, tiredness or breathlessness without obvious reason, or a lump or swelling in your abdomen.

See your GP if you have symptoms.