Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis

The Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis is funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programm (http://prp.dh.gov.uk/). The Unit has a five-year programme to research policy issues in the three broad areas of cancer awareness, cancer screening, and early diagnosis of cancer, to inform policies for improving stage at presentation of cancer and thus reducing mortality from the disease.

The Unit is a collaboration of 14 leading scientists from seven institutions, with Stephen Duffy of Queen Mary, University of London as director, and Jane Wardle of University College, London as deputy director. The Unit partners are also involved with other national and international initiatives in this area, including The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/spotcancerearly/ICBP/#What), the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative and the advisory committees for the breast, bowel and cervical screening programmes (http://www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/).

Major areas of activity of the Unit include:

• Studies of variation in awareness across England and associations with cancer survival

• Studies of the predictive value of symptoms for cancer, and of response of GP’s to symptoms

• Identification of the risk factors for late stage or emergency presentation of cancer

• Evaluation of the benefits and harms of the national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer

• Identifying barriers to participation in cancer screening and researching policies to improve access

• Qualitative research on the role of general practice in early diagnosis of cancer


For many cancers, there is a strong relationship between survival and the extent to which the cancer has been allowed to grow before diagnosis. Our ultimate aim is to shift cancers from late stage, poor survival, to early stage, excellent survival.