The West of Scotland Cancer Awareness Project

Created in 2003, the West of Scotland Cancer Awareness Project aimed to encourage individuals belonging to at-risk populations in the region to contact the National Health Service (NHS) as soon as they began to experience signs and symptoms of oral cancer. To inform project development, extensive background research was conducted in the form of a literature review and an exploratory study with members of the target audience. This research provided information on the public’s awareness and perceptions of mouth cancer, as well as their understanding and response to early signs and symptoms of mouth cancer. Once initial research concluded, a steering group including representatives from primary and secondary care, public health, and members of the project team was created to guide the implementation and development of the project. Local Implementation Teams (LITs) were also set up to lead local campaign initiatives, training and dictate the communications strategy. Communication materials were designed to address barriers and benefits identified through initial research and included television and radio campaigns, direct mailings to residents in the target demographic, posters and leaflets distributed through primary care and community venues, and a mobile photographic exhibition. Community events that offered free mouth checks were also organized and a promotional competition gave individuals the opportunity to win prizes by correctly answering questions on mouth cancer. In addition to targeting members of the public, the project also created strategies targeting health professionals. Pharmacists and medical and dental practitioners were invited to a series of trainings and seminars aimed to raise awareness about oral cancer issues. Doctors and dentists were updated on referral processes for symptomatic patients and additional clinics were set up to accommodate increased demand for appointments. Three different strategies were employed to evaluate the effectiveness of this campaign: (1) pre- and post-campaign in-home interviews with members of the target audience, (2) surveys administered to General Dental Practitioners, and (3) surveys administered to patients attending rapid access clinics. Key findings from the first two evaluations revealed that 83 percent of members of the general public questioned recognized the campaign, and General Dental Practitioners saw an increase in the number of patients seeking advice about the campaign. 64 percent of patients surveyed at rapid access clinics stated that they had seen or heard of the campaign, and of those, 68 percent shared that they sought advice sooner due to campaign messaging.

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