'It could save your life': people in deprived areas urged to have cancer symptoms checked

ITV Wales' health reporter Katie Fenton reports.

Roughly half of people in deprived areas across Wales did not get possible symptoms of cancer checked by a GP, according to a leading charity.

Cancer Research UK has launched a campaign encouraging people to see their GP as soon as they can if they suspect something is wrong, with earlier detection of the disease giving the best chance of survival.

Almost a fifth of people who responded to a survey by the charity about common reasons for not going to the GP pointed to the difficulty in getting an appointment.

Tony Gillard from Aberdare, who has now been cancer free for more than 15 years, credits seeing his GP and receiving an early diagnosis with kidney cancer for saving his life.

Tony said he is now fitter than ever having survived kidney cancer more than 15 years ago. Credit: ITV Wales

He received the diagnosis just a week before he was due to retire at the age of 64, having spotted blood in his urine whilst using the toilet at work.

Tony, who is now nearly 80, said: “I left my desk and went quite normally to the gent's toilet and noticed in the urinal that things didn't appear right.

“I thought that the colour of my urine could have been because I'd eaten beetroot the night before. Looking back, I had noticed pain in my right side but hadn’t thought much about it.”

However, his wife Linda encouraged him to have it checked straight away.

Following his diagnosis, Tony had surgery to remove his kidney.

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Thankfully an early diagnosis meant the disease had not spread and he received the great news he was cancer free following the surgery.

He said: “I decided to book a holiday to Spain with all my family and a few days earlier I received the best news - that the surgery was a success, and I was cancer free.”

His illness triggered him to change his lifestyle, becoming an avid runner and taking part in Cancer Research UK's Race for Life last year.

He is racing again this year in Cardiff alongside his son, Michael, to mark his 80th birthday.

Tony explained: “Before I was diagnosed, I weighed 17 stone. Having cancer was a real wakeup call so I decided to change my lifestyle. I joined Slimming World and managed to reduce my weight to 12 and a half stone.”

Tony now has three grand children and four great grand children. Credit: ITV Wales

He said he is "fitter than ever" and said his 55-year-old son will "probably struggle to keep up" during the race, which is being held in Bute Park in May.

Talking about what he would tell others, he said: “My advice is, as soon as things don't appear right, go and get checked. If I had ignored my symptoms, maybe I wouldn't be here now.

“If you’re worried at all, speak to your doctor – it could save your life.”

Simon Sheeres from Cancer Research UK talked about what to do if you spot possible signs of cancer.

Talking about the reason for launching the campaign, Simon Sheeres, public affairs manager for Cancer Research UK in Wales, said: "We've launched this campaign today because our research shows that more than half of people from deprived areas aren't coming forward with possible signs and symptoms of cancer to their GP.

"That is an absolute concern because we know that people who come from these communities are more likely to have their cancer diagnosed at a later stage."

Mr Sheeres added: "In a nutshell early diagnosis saves lives. So we know that when we find cancer before it's spread or before it becomes bigger, there are more treatment options and a higher chance of those treatment options being more successful.

"It's so important to visit your GP practice if you are concerned. Don't leave it up to yourself. Your doctor is trained to spot those symptoms of cancer and they're there to help you."

Cancer Research UK has released an advert urging people to get possible cancer symptoms checked. Credit: Cancer Research UK

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Anyone who is concerned about symptoms of cancer should contact their GP for advice because detecting cancer earlier can improve a person’s outcome.

“We want to ensure that people can access GP services in NHS Wales as quickly as possible, based on need.

“This year we have invested £20 million in General Medical Services, the highest level of investment in many years, to support high-quality care.

“In 2019, we invested £3.7m in digital telephone systems to make it easier for people to contact their practice. We have also provided £12 million in funding over three years from 2022 to support practices to increase their staff and capacity to improve access.”

They added there has been a record increase in referrals for cancer diagnosis, which have risen by a half in three years.

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