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Be Clear on Cancer

Regional Bowel Cancer Screening campaign

A regional Be Clear on Cancer campaign will launch across the North West of England on 9th January 2017, aimed at increasing participation of 60-74 year olds in the English NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.

Why the focus on bowel cancer screening?
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK1, yet trials show that bowel cancer screening can cut deaths from the disease by 15% in the target population (60–74 year olds)2. The guaiac faecal occult blood test or gFOBT is currently used for bowel cancer screening in England. It can detect early signs of bowel cancer, when it is often easier to treat successfully. Despite this, overall uptake of bowel cancer screening in England is low at 58% (2014/15), and as low as 33% in some areas3

What is this campaign aiming to achieve?

Increased awareness and participation in the NHS Bowel Screening Programme (specifically, gFOBT). 

Has this campaign run previously?
No, a Be Clear on Cancer bowel cancer screening awareness campaign has never run before; previous Be Clear on Cancer campaigns have always focused on improving early diagnosis by raising awareness of cancer symptoms. However, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has undertaken three bowel cancer screening pilot campaigns to date, in London (2014), Wales (2015) and England 
(2015–16). The Department of Health (DH) helped to fund CRUK’s first pilot and has supported the Wales and England projects. Insights gained from CRUK’s pilot projects will be used to inform this campaign.

Who is running this campaign?
CRUK will lead, fund and evaluate this pilot however Public Health England (PHE), DH and NHS England colleagues will provide consultancy, support with engagement of stakeholders, and produce some campaign materials.

Why is PHE working in partnership with CRUK on this campaign?
In July 2015, the Independent Cancer Taskforce included a specific recommendation in their strategy “Achieving World Class Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015 to 2020” for PHE to “explore the use of the Be Clear on Cancer brand to improve uptake of screening programmes, particularly among disadvantaged groups”. CRUK and PHE fully support this recommendation and have therefore come together in partnership, along with DH and NHS England, to trial the use of the Be Clear on Cancer brand on a bowel cancer screening awareness campaign. The long-term ambition of this partnership is for PHE to roll the campaign into their regular programme of work, should it prove to be successful. 

Who is the campaign aimed at?

  • 55–74 year olds from lower socioeconomic groups, with a skew towards men.This targeting will allow us to reach both those eligible and soon to be eligible for screening, and to focus our advertising on those least likely to participate.4

What activities will be taking place and when?
An advertising campaign including TV, posters at bus stops, and adverts in newspapers and on Facebook will run for 12 weeks from 9 January to 2 April 2017. Advertising will run for the full campaign period, whilst direct mail will run alongside advertising from 20 February to 31 March only. Direct mail will consist of two versions: 

  • Version one: A personalised CRUK endorsement letter, sent to First Timers only (i.e. those being invited to bowel screening for the first time)
  • Version two: A personalised CRUK endorsement letter and a pack containing 3 pairs of latex-free gloves, sent to Non-Responders (i.e. those who have been invited previously but have never responded) only

Previously screened invitees will not be targeted with the CRUK direct mailing.

The mailings will arrive two – three days following an NHS bowel screening test kit. 

  • Advertising and direct mail will run across the North West of England (Lancashire, South Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire), however direct mail will not run in all CCG areas; some areas will act as control areas (TBC).

What are the main messages of the campaign?

  • This little kit could save your life
  • If you’re aged 60–74 you’ll be sent a free bowel cancer screening kit in the post, once every two years
  • It’s meant for people with no symptoms
  • It’s one of the best ways to find bowel cancer early, when it’s easier to treat successfully
  • So don’t ignore it, take the test
  • Be Clear on Cancer

For more information 


1 Cancer Research UK,, Accessed August 2016. 

2 Hewitson P et al. (2007). Screening for colorectal cancer using the faecal occult blood test Hemmoccult. Cochrane Database System Review.
doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001216. pub2/full, Accessed August 2016.

3 Persons 60–69, screened for bowel cancer within 6  months of invitation (uptake, %) by CCG. Public Health England, Cancer Services Profiles.

4 England bowel screening data for FY 2014/15, persons aged 60-74, 
“Percentage of people adequately screened out of those invited for FOBt screening” were provided by Public Health England (PHE) Screening on request April 2016.