Stephen Fry joins NHS campaign promoting cancer check-ups

The actor and comedian was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2018.
The actor and comedian was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2018.

Stephen Fry has joined an NHS campaign to encourage people with potential cancer symptoms to come forward for checks.

The actor and comedian, 64, was treated for prostate cancer in 2018 and is now warning people of the early signs of abdominal or urological cancer.

The NHS Help Us, Help You campaign, supported by Public Health England, urges people to contact their GP practice if they experience tummy troubles, including discomfort or diarrhoea for three weeks or more, or if they see blood in their urine.

In a statement, the comedian said: “A few years ago, I was pretty stunned to be given a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

“I was very lucky because mine was diagnosed early.

“Many of us can succumb to cancers but there are symptoms that can be reported by the patient.

“So please, make an appointment with your GP if you notice discomfort in the tummy area or diarrhoea for three weeks or blood in your pee even just once.”

The actor features in a short film for the campaign alongside This Morning’s Dr Hilary Jones and Dr Philippa Kaye who explain the symptoms to look out for as well as why early diagnosis is important.

Pride of Britain Awards 2019 – London
Dr Hilary Jones also features in the campaign (Ian West/PA)

Dr Jones said: “As a GP and having seen instances of urological and abdominal cancers in the past, I can honestly say, if you’re experiencing any tummy troubles for a few weeks, or if you’ve seen blood in your pee, your GP will want to know about it.

“Hopefully it’s nothing serious but if it is cancer there are lots of treatment options available and the earlier cancer is found, the better.

“I know that some of my patients are nervous to come to my clinic because of coronavirus, but the NHS has put measures in place to ensure we can see you safely. So please, come and see us.”

As part of the campaign video, members of the public also explain their journey discovering cancer, treating it and how they are recovering after early intervention.

Despite abdominal and urological cancers making up 44% of all cancer diagnoses in England and 41% of cancer deaths in the country, many people are unaware of the common warning signs.

This NHS campaign follows new research released by Kantar and commissioned by the NHS which found that more than half of the public (51%) would be put off going to see their doctor if they displayed such symptoms due to feeling embarrassed, and a similar number due to fear of wasting their GP’s time.

But nearly a third did not know these symptoms could be signs of cancer and 36% thought tummy issues were just a sign of getting older.

If caught early, 93% of people diagnosed with bowel cancer stage one will survive the disease for at least five years, compared with 10% if diagnosed at the latest stage four.

Similar likelihoods of survival are also experienced for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer if caught in stage one.

Referrals and treatment levels for cancer are back to pre-pandemic levels, with the latest data showing more than 230,000 people were checked in June – the second highest number of patients seen in a single month on record.

In July, the NHS announced £20 million investment to speed up cancer diagnosis so that thousands more people can get potentially life-saving cancer checks.