A doctor looks at mammograms

Diagnosing cancer early saves lives

If cancer is diagnosed early, it’s nearly always easier to treat successfully. But too many cancers are still diagnosed at a late stage – thousands of lives could be saved in the UK if more cancers were spotted early.

We’re working hard to solve this problem, and we’re excited to announce a major new partnership with Tesco. By working together we will find ways to close the gap between survival rates in the UK and the best countries in Europe so that thousands more will survive cancer in the future.

Tesco will raise £10 million to fund 32 early diagnosis research projects across the UK, as well as displaying our leaflets on the signs and symptoms of cancer to the millions of customers who go through their stores’ checkouts each week.

But what exactly will this research involve? Read on for just a few highlights of the work that this valuable partnership is supporting.

Testing for prostate cancer

Men who inherit faults in their BRCA genes (which are normally thought of as ‘breast cancer’ genes) have a higher risk of prostate cancer. But could they benefit from regular tests to help diagnose the disease early? Professor Ros Eeles at The Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton is investigating targeted PSA testing for men with faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Men are taking part in towns across the UK including Liverpool, Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Faster chest X-rays to detect lung cancer early

Could more lives be saved if all patients with possible lung cancer symptoms were sent for an urgent chest X-ray? Professor Richard Neal in Bangor is investigating. Initially, he’s running a small trial, with the aim of planning a larger study testing this approach. The disease is one of the most common cancers in the UK and it’s often diagnosed late, so in the long-term, this research could make a real difference to thousands of people.

Improving cervical screening

Based in London, Professor Peter Sasieni is investigating whether testing women aged 25-65 for the human papillomavirus (HPV) as part of the cervical screening programme could save even more lives than the smear test alone. All cervical cancers are linked to HPV, and it’s hoped that HPV testing could make the screening programme more accurate and more effective at preventing the disease and diagnosing it early.

A new test to help diagnose oesophageal cancer

In Cambridge, Dr Rebecca Fitzgerald is trialling a simple new screening test to detect changes in the oesophagus (foodpipe) that can develop into cancer. The test could identify people who need early treatment, helping to prevent the disease from developing. If successful, Dr Fitzgerald’s study could save more people from this hard-to-treat cancer.

Recognising skin cancer symptoms

Researchers in Edinburgh are finding out whether people can learn how to recognise the signs of melanoma skin cancer by looking at images online. Melanoma is becoming more common and it’s important that people are aware of the symptoms so they can visit their doctor as early as possible.

Improving bowel cancer screening

In London, Professor Wendy Atkin is finding better ways to prevent bowel cancer and detect the disease early through her research testing new screening and diagnosis techniques. Her work has already proved the benefits of a new test called flexible sigmoidoscopy, which can detect and remove bowel polyps before they develop into cancer. This test will soon become part of the national screening programme in England.

Better tools for diagnosing breast cancer

In Guildford, Professor Kenneth Young is finding out if new digital X-ray technology could improve breast screening. He believes this technology could be more efficient than the current method, particularly in women who are younger or have denser breast tissue.

These are just a handful of the potentially life-saving projects Tesco is supporting across the UK. To find out more about the many other projects that are part of this exciting partnership, explore our interactive map and find out about research happening near you.

You can find out more about our work into early diagnosis on our website, and there is information about how to spot cancer early, including signs and symptoms to look out for, on our Healthy Living pages.