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Animation exploring reasons behind low cancer survival in rural Yorkshire premiered in Harrogate

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Emma Jacob


An animation exploring the cause of low cancer survival in rural Yorkshire has been premiered in Harrogate.

The premiere was part of an event showcasing the findings of the ‘RURALLY’ research study. The study, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, examined barriers to seeing the GP with symptoms of possible bowel cancer in rural communities.

Findings of the study suggested poor relationships with GPs, concerns about losing time from work, and cultural beliefs around ‘not making a fuss’ are some of the factors preventing people in rural areas from seeking help for cancer symptoms. These findings will improve understanding of how communities across Yorkshire can best be supported to come forward with cancer symptoms.

Dr Christina Dobson, Senior Research Associate in the Population Health Science Institute at Newcastle University, and lead researcher for the study, said: “We are thrilled to be able to launch this animation, sharing not only the findings of our research but, importantly, vital messages about the importance of consulting early for possible symptoms of bowel cancer.

“Our researchers looked at the obstacles that people in rural areas face in relation to consulting their GP and we found that rural life, employment and a tendency to be stoic about illness, all impacted people’s willingness to see their GP. Relationships between GPs and rural patients, however, were a key factor that could help or hinder early presentation.

“We are incredibly thankful to everyone who took part in the research, particularly those who helped to co-produce the animation, sharing their insight and creativity to make it such a great success, and spreading the word about it in their communities. We are excited to see how we can develop this work to improve the experiences, and survival, of rural cancer patients in Yorkshire and beyond.

We are incredibly grateful to Yorkshire Cancer Research for funding this study, which was one of the first ever studies to examine the reasons for rural cancer inequalities”.

More than 700 people from the region took part in surveys, and 40 took part in in-depth interviews about their experiences of symptoms, consulting a GP, and the challenges they face when accessing health care in rural areas.

Those who took part in the study were invited to attend the showcase and see how their involvement helped inform the findings.

As part of the event, guests took part in workshops on how the findings of the study could best be used to support people in rural communities to speak to their GP about any symptoms and increase awareness of the importance of an early diagnosis.

Lorraine Angell was a public research advisor for the study, a role which involved supporting researchers to analyse interview data and reviewing written materials, to check that they were easy to understand, and offer a patient perspective on the study.

I saw that Christina was looking for someone who had personal experience of cancer in a rural area to be part of the trial. I’ve had cancer myself, so I responded to that and I was really keen to take part because I felt like it would help me and give me an opportunity to give back.

“I’ve found it all so interesting. I attended my first meeting with GPs and researchers, and at first I felt like I wouldn’t have anything to contribute, but actually I found that I was really listened to and that my opinion mattered.

"To get to this point, where we can get something out to the public and help encourage people to go to their GP, is fantastic. I’m proud to have seen it come so far.”

Public research advisor

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research and Services at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “It was great to be able to attend the showcase and meet some of the people who helped make the study such a great success.

“Studies like RURALLY play a vital role in helping to inform new and innovative ways of supporting people in rural communities to see their GP with any symptoms of cancer.

“The new animation will help bring the findings of the research to more people across the region, and hopefully increase awareness of the importance of early diagnosis. It could also inform GP practices and other Health Care Practices how to best support their rural communities.”