Cancer patients seeking facts about their diagnosis and treatment will soon be able to receive information prescriptions thanks to a new partnership between Britain’s leading cancer charities, Cancer Research UK and Cancerbackup.

Almost two thirds of cancer patients do not fully understand what their diagnosis means1. To reduce the uncertainty and fear felt by cancer patients, the two charities are scoping a major initiative to provide the best quality cancer information for patients in the UK.

Information prescriptions will help to ensure patients receive immediate, relevant information from their doctors and nurses, as well as to signpost patients to additional information and support, empowering people to take control of their illness. Patients will receive information prescriptions at key points in their illness as the focus of their care and treatment needs change.

The Department of Health is funding a series of pilot initiatives around information prescriptions, which will roll out across the country in 2008. In partnership, Cancerbackup and Cancer Research UK intends to work with the NHS to shape the development and national roll out of information prescriptions to ensure that high quality information products and resources will be more easily available to cancer patients.

Cancerbackup and Cancer Research UK are planning to work together on a number of joint cancer information projects. The partnership meets the mission and vision of each charity. Cancer Research UK’s vision to beat cancer includes helping people to understand the disease and the choices that each person can make and ensuring that findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients. Cancerbackup’s mission is to give cancer patients and their families up-to-date information, understanding and support.

Joanne Rule, Cancerbackup chief executive, said: “We’re very excited about this partnership with Cancer Research UK, which will enable us to reach more people affected by cancer ensuring everyone has access to the best quality patient information. We know that having cancer information can help to reduce the fear of cancer and give back some control to people’s lives. Forty percent of cancer patients are currently not given any written information at the time of diagnosis.”

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive designate, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Cancerbackup to improve information services for cancer patients. Cancer Research UK’s long term goal is to ensure that all cancer patients are able to access the information they need at diagnosis, during and after treatment. Working in partnership can only bring that vision a step closer.”

Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director, said: “This is a really exciting and welcome partnership between two highly regarded cancer charities. The Department of Health will be delighted to work with Cancerbackup and Cancer Research UK on delivering information prescriptions. By drawing from their expertise and experience of delivering information services, we will be able to ensure that all cancer patients receive accurate and accessible information throughout their cancer journey.”

One of the projects the charities will be working on immediately will be to roll out audio cancer information cassettes to support the UK’s half a million people with print disabilities who are affected by cancer. Seventy information booklets will be reproduced in audio format3, ensuring that more people affected by cancer will be able to access information in the format in which they need it.

The two charities will also work together to enable the 12,000 patients in the UK who have pelvic radiotherapy treatment every year to have access to detailed information about the possible long term side effects and how they can best be managed. Pelvic radiotherapy booklets will be made available free to health professionals and patients from hospital radiotherapy departments or directly from Cancerbackup and Cancer Research UK.


For more information, contact Kerry Noble at Cancer Research UK on 020 7061 8300 or Michelle Rowley at Cancerbackup on 020 7920 7219 [email protected].


  1. Cancer Information Maze’ report by the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry, Ask About Medicines and Cancerbackup 2005
  2. Department of Health. ‘Tackling cancer: improving the patient journey’. Report by the controller and Auditor General 2005.
  3. Cancerbackup currently provides 44 titles from its 70 patient booklets in audio format.


About Cancerbackup

  • Cancerbackup is the only national charity that specialises in providing information on all types of cancer.
  • All Cancerbackup services are free to cancer patients, their relatives and friends and can answer any question on any cancer.
  • Cancerbackup Freephone Information Service: 0808 800 1234 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm) is staffed by specialist cancer nurses and answers over 43,000 calls a year. Cancerbackup walk-in centres can be found in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Charing Cross Hospital, the London Clinic, The Christie Hospital, Ipswich Hospital, Nottingham University Hospitals, Coventry’s University Hospital and Jersey.
  • The charity’s award-winning website has over 4,500 pages of cancer information.
  • Cancerbackup produces over 70 patient-friendly booklets and 300 factsheets, covering cancer types, treatments and the practical and emotional sides to cancer, that are free to patients, their families and friends.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

Cancer Research UK provides a range of information resources:

  • CancerHelp UK is the charity’s patient information website. It contains information developed specifically for the web on all types of cancer and includes a database of clinical trials written in plain English.
  • The charity has a nurse enquiry line – 020 7061 8355 or freephone 0800 226 237
  • Cancer Research UK runs national cancer awareness and prevention campaigns and publishes a range of leaflets and resources to support this work. From April 2007, all these resources will be free of charge to the public and healthcare professionals. The charity also provides statistical information about cancer and publishes the CancerStats series for health professionals.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work visit our homepage.