Greater Manchester Cancer Champions is a campaign to recruit 20,000 local volunteers across the county to connect with their communities and give out health advice to help combat cancer.
The number of people being diagnosed with cancer in Greater Manchester is growing. In 2011, 13,600 people were diagnosed with cancer and in 2014, the figure was 14,500.
In Salford, 3,067 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2011, rising to 4,837 in 2014 and to 5,367 in 2016. Per year, around 1,300 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the city, and there are 620 deaths due to cancer.
However, cancer survival rates are improving. In 2000, the overall chance of surviving a year following a diagnosis of cancer in Greater Manchester was 58%, but by 2013, the survival rate had risen to 69.9 per cent, (68.5 per cent in Salford). The aim is to increase that rate to 75 per cent or higher by 2020.
The cancer champions campaign is being led by Greater Manchester Vanguard Innovation, part of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership. It aims to support people to take charge of their own health and wellbeing, and help those with cancer get diagnosed and treated earlier.
The plan is for the new cancer champions to get involved in their local communities, and pass on advice to help reduce unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, that increase a person’s risk of getting cancer.
They will also encourage people to take up cancer screening invitations or go to their GP if they are worried about symptoms, and they will gather feedback from the community to help improve patients’ experience.
Irfan Syed is an Engagement Officer for NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group. He looks after the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic ).community in Salford and is responsible for recruiting and working with cancer champions who specifically support the BAME community.
Irfan organised and promoted a BAME cancer champion recruitment event at the Beacon Youth Centre in Salford earlier this year. His target was to recruit 13 people. Remarkably, one hundred people attended the event and 45 of them signed up to be a cancer champion on the day, tripling expectations. This is the most cancer champions recruited in one single event in Greater Manchester.
Irfan said: “I was thrilled that so many people were eager to become a cancer champion. The volunteers are from a variety of backgrounds, and of all ages, from 19 to 60 years.
“Our new cancer champions will be our voice out in the Salford BAME communities, helping us to make a difference and break down some of the barriers. They are from the same communities, they speak the same languages, so people are more likely to engage with them.
“Talking about cancer is difficult. It’s often a taboo subject among these communities, and many people don’t know much about it or what to look out for. It’s important to talk to people about the symptoms of cancer, the services available and to find out what the barriers are that prevent them from accessing help.”
“With our continued support, the champions will give 3-4 days of their time per month to communicate with people in their community and give them advice about how to prevent cancer.
The next step is to train the champions. Monthly training events are being arranged which will include presentations from health professionals.
“We will look at their training needs and we will provide them with appropriate literature to help them communicate the key health messages and answer questions from community members,” said Irfan.
Rana Hassan, 19, has signed up to be a cancer champion in Salford. He said: “Since the age of 16, I have been working as a volunteer for Manchester MIND so I have had a lot of training and experience in helping young people from BAME communities.
“I was keen to become a cancer champion because I wanted to make a difference and see a change in the community.
“I am aware of all the different health services and facilities and I feel I can help people by guiding them to the right places to get the healthcare they need. The information we receive as a cancer champion will be useful to cascade to other agencies and services I am in touch with.
“A lot of young people don’t go to health services, many of them are afraid. I feel I will be able to put them at ease.
“I speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi and this helps to break down barriers, people feel more relaxed if you can speak their language.”
“I think the cancer champions will have a great impact as we can help people in the BAME communities to understand more about cancer and the symptoms, advise them on what they can do to prevent it and how to get medical help, if they need it.”
Irfan added: “We hope that the new cancer champions will be able to use their experience, knowledge and passion to support those at risk of developing cancer and those recently diagnosed with the disease.”
If you are interested in becoming a cancer champion for Salford BAME communities email Irfan firstname.lastname@example.org or you can find out more and sign up here https://www.icangm.co.uk/become-cancer-champion/