Cancer is a priority in Tower Hamlets as the largest cause of premature death in the borough, with death rates driven by high incidence of lung cancer, and late diagnosis and poor survival rates of many cancers including breast, bowel and prostate. At least 40% of cancers could be prevented by making simple behaviour changes.

Around 650 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in Tower Hamlets residents. Of these, about 100 are lung cancer, 70 are breast cancer, 60 are bowel cancer and 40 are prostate cancer.

Late diagnosis of cancer is a particular problem in Tower Hamlets; the earlier cancer is detected, the more likely it is to be successfully treated.

The 'small c' campaign aimed to improve the chances of survival from cancer in east London. A recent evaluation of the campaign showed how local community organisations involved helped to raise residents’ awareness of cancer symptoms, leading to more people being diagnosed early and more people receiving life-saving treatment.

The campaign began in 2010 as a partnership of the health services across Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Newham, City and Hackney and Barts Health NHS Trust, and was designed to help people recognise symptoms when cancer is still small and more vulnerable to treatment, because ‘spotting cancer early saves lives’.

Work we are doing locally to tackle this issue

In Tower Hamlets we are aiming to reduce inequalities in cancer mortality and survival through:

  • supporting people to make simple changes in their behaviour – for example, stopping smoking, healthier eating, being more active and sensible drinking, and by making changes to the physical environment
  • raising public awareness of symptoms and the importance of seeing a doctor without delay
  • promoting the uptake of breast, bowel and cervical screening
  • improving survival by detecting and treating cancer earlier, and preventing recurrence.

The British Journal of Cancer has recently published the results of a study in East London which showed significantly higher uptake of screening when GP practices endorsed bowel screening by letters and telephone calls, compared to control practices in which people received standard invitations from the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme only.

View the full report.


Breast screening 
Tel: 020 3465 6631 

Bowel screening 
Tel: 0800 707 6060

Cervical screening

Useful external links



Tower Hamlets Living with Cancer Programme

Having cancer can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of their age, gender, background, or circumstance. Everyone who gets cancer is different and the care and support they will need to live with a cancer diagnosis and the impact of treatment will vary to suit their own life.

Tell us how to improve life with cancer in Tower Hamlets

If you are a patient, a carer or a family member affected by cancer, you can be involved in this exciting programme. We would like to hear from everyone - including people who have had cancer recently, people who had cancer years ago and carers and family members too. If you work with people affected by cancer, we’d be grateful if you could help us spread the word.

There are different ways for you to get involved, depending on your interests, skills and the time you would like to offer.

We are holding focus groups for you to tell us about your experiences of being supported after a cancer diagnosis, through treatment, and life after cancer.

  • Tower Hamlets Carers Centre in Stepney – Tuesday 5 February 11am-1pm (carers/family members session), 2pm-4pm (open to all)
  • St Paul’s Way Centre in Bow – Thursday 7 February 12.30pm – 2.30pm (open to all)
  • Teviot Centre in Poplar – Wednesday 27 February 12pm – 2pm (open to all)

The venues are accessible, we will reimburse your travel expenses, and provide lunch.

If you would like to come, please contact Becky Driscoll for full information.

If you can’t attend on these dates, please contact Becky to join our mailing list and find out about alternative ways to share your experiences. We’ll also be running one-to-one interviews, sending out a survey, and setting up a patient/carer involvement group.

If you’re interested, please contact Becky Driscoll to find out more.

Phone: 0207 364 3397 or 07956 360 510

If you need support now, you can contact the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00.

Why our work is needed

Many people with cancer experience short-term physical side effects during treatment and usually these resolve naturally within a few months. However, some patients experience long-term or late onset “consequences of treatment” which may include a wide range of physical and psychosocial changes that reduce quality of life.

In order to address these issues, Macmillan has developed a partnership programme with local authorities and other partners to develop new solutions.

The Tower Hamlets Living with Cancer Programme, is one of five Macmillan Local Authority Partnership pilots across England and Scotland. It will be developed and delivered over three years, starting in February 2018.

Its aim is to develop a model of service delivery in partnership with local authorities, local health partners, third sector, communities and people affected by cancer. By using local health intelligence, identifying existing services and gaps, using people affected by cancers’ feedback and harnessing sector wide expertise, the programme will ensure that everyone living with and beyond cancer can easily access all the support they require.

 Read more on cancer patients’ experience in London at Mind the Gap