A COMMUNITY health programme aimed at increasing the prevention and early diagnosis of cancer will be expanded to support South Asian women living in Bradford.

The ‘Wise Up To Cancer’ scheme, pioneered by Yorkshire Cancer Research and originally launched in the Leeds and Wakefield areas last year, is part of a major drive by the charity to encourage healthy lifestyles and raise awareness of cancer signs and symptoms and the importance of screening.

The Bradford project, carried out in partnership with the University of Bradford, is to run until next February and will offer South Asian women a 'chat about health' in community and pharmacy settings.

It will also offer further support to help women attend screening appointments if their screening is overdue. The programme will focus primarily on the BD3, BD5, BD7 and BD8 postcodes in the city.

Nisa Almas, Community Health Champion Co-ordinator, University of Bradford, said: “Women from South Asian communities have a wealth of expertise and insight in uniting and taking practical steps to overcome barriers and improve community wellbeing. The Wise Up To Cancer project is another milestone in this journey, with health champions from the community, supporting one another in the community, to have those difficult conversations around cancer screening whilst also raising awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”

Researchers led by Dr Melanie Cooper and Professor Marcus Rattray at the University of Bradford, will evaluate the programme to assess how effective it has been in increasing participation in screening to help identify cancers sooner, and how it can be improved to save more lives.

Two GP practices in Bradford - The Ridge Medical Practice and Avicenna Medical Practice - will also be involved.

The project has been made possible thanks to the support of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which provided a £216,000 award through its Tampon Tax fund.

The number of people taking part in national cancer screening programmes in Bradford is lower than the national average and the research will look at how South Asian women can be encouraged to increase their participation in screening services.

This is made all the more important as Bradford has the lowest bowel cancer screening rate in England, the third lowest rate for breast and the fifth lowest for cervical cancer screening.

Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research & Services at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “The Wise Up To Cancer programme has shown promising results in Leeds and Wakefield, with many people setting and achieving positive health goals. It’s exciting that we are now branching out into Bradford and working with South Asian women to develop the scheme so it works for their community.”

Melanie Cooper of the University of Bradford and Academic Lead for the project added: “As a health professional and having worked in Bradford for 25 years, I am passionate to ensure that all women have the same opportunities for a healthy life and access to health services including cancer screening. I am proud that the University of Bradford is working with our partners to provide this opportunity for local South Asian women and I am delighted to lead the project.”