It’s time to turn Scotland’s Big C into the ‘wee c’

More people in Scotland are surviving cancer than ever before – around 15,800 men and women diagnosed with cancer this year will survive compared to 9,500 that would have survived 30 years ago1 – enough to fill Glasgow’s Armadillo five times over.

The figures were revealed at the launch of the wee c – a new initiative which aims to change the way cancer is viewed in Scotland, in a bid to reduce fear around the disease and boost survival rates.

Today, the Scottish Government in partnership with Cancer Research UK, joined forces with 14 of Scotland’s leading cancer charities to issue a rallying cry for people across Scotland – together we can turn the Big C into the wee c.

A host of Scottish celebrities also expressed their support, including Kaye Adams, Sanjeev Kohli, Ross King, Grant Stott, Andy Gray, Nicholas McDonald, Yvie Burnett, Tallia Storm, Sir Jackie Stewart, Dario Franchitti and Tom Kitchin.

The ‘Big C’ is still a term commonly used by the nation when referring to cancer – reinforcing a fatalistic view of the disease. Research has shown this fear is a key barrier to people presenting with potential signs or symptoms, and attending screening2. This can often result in later stage diagnoses, when the chance of survival is lower.

The wee c is focused on highlighting that cancer isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to earlier detection, research breakthroughs and treatment advances, Scotland is making positive strides towards bringing cancer down to size.

The average ten year survival rate for cancer has doubled over the past 30 years – now two in four people survive, compared to one in four in the 1970s, and today half of men and women in Scotland survive cancer (48 per cent of males, and 54 per cent of females)3.

These figures could increase further if early detection rates improved. Around 1,000 deaths could be avoided each year in Scotland if cancer survival matched the best in Europe4.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said:

“I know how daunting it can be to get a cancer diagnosis and the impact this has on an individual and their families’ lives. However, cancer isn’t what it used to be with more people than ever before now surviving a diagnosis. This is why it is time for the other, more positive side of the story to be told. Essentially turning the Big C into the wee c.

“The reality is that thanks to innovation and investment, there are around 176,000 people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last 20 years and who are still alive –over double the population of Inverness.

“Reframing the way cancer is viewed goes hand-in-hand with boosting survival rates and everyone can play a part. If we can raise awareness of what is being done to tackle cancer, we’ll hopefully, in time, be able to address the fear people have in seeing their GP or attending their screening appointment. The earlier you come forward to get checked or screened, the better, it could save your life.

“It’s hugely encouraging to see so many charities uniting to kick-start the wee c – this demonstrates the collective will behind reducing this fatalistic view of cancer and boosting survival rates in Scotland.”

At the launch, the minister met with Alex Watson, from Lenzie in East Dunbartonshire, who is relishing life after receiving a testicular cancer diagnosis aged just 23.

Now 43, he attributes his long term survival to the scientists, including those at Cancer Research UK, who have worked hard to better understand the disease and develop new treatments.

Alex Watson said:

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be cured and to have survived testicular cancer. I’m proof that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean a death sentence – twenty years on, here I am living life to the full.

“Treatments are getting better all the time however people need to be aware of their body, and any changes that take place. It’s only when you get checked can you get treated for whatever is wrong, even if it’s not cancer.

“I’m backing the wee c as I believe, that while we’ve come so far, there is more to be done. It’s time for Scotland to unite in bringing cancer down to size.”

Cancer Research UK has been involved in the development of the wee c, as the charity dedicated to funding life-saving research to help beat cancer sooner.

Local NHS Forth Valley staff are backing the campaign, including the Oncology team, some of home are pictured above (l-r) are Jennifer Wilson, Linnet McGeever, Susan Davidson and Theresa Thomson.

Jennifer Wilson, Oncology Department Lead and Lead Macmillan Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist at NHS Forth Valley, said:

“We’re proud to be contributing to Scotland’s wee c vision through encouraging people who are worried or suspect something is wrong to visit their GP.

“More lives can be saved with early diagnosis so by listening to your body and acting early, we can all help turn the Big C into the wee c.”