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 


Tower Hamlets Living with Cancer Programme

Cancer can happen to anyone of any age, gender, background, or circumstance. 

The care and support a person will need to live with a diagnosis will be different. Their treatment’s impact will vary to suit their own life. 

Why is our work needed?

Many people with cancer have short-term physical side effects during treatment. These usually resolve naturally within a few months. 

Some patients may have long-term or late onset “consequences of treatment”. This may cause physical and psychosocial changes that reduce quality of life. 

Macmillan has developed a partnership programme to find solutions for these issues. 

This is one of five partnership pilots across England and Scotland. 

What is the programme’s aim?

We want to deliver services with:

  • local authorities
  • local health partners
  • third sector
  • communities
  • people affected by cancer.

This will:

  • show existing services and gaps from local health intelligence
  • give valuable feedback from people affected by cancer
  • let us harness sector-wide expertise

It will ensure that those living with and beyond cancer can easily access all the support they need. 

They are available to cancer patients that live in the borough. 

This will enable:

  • care closer to home
  • better transition support, joint assessment, and care planning
  • improved experience and outcome for cancer patients and their carers 


Macmillan Cancer Care Navigation Service

This is delivered by East London Foundation Trust. 

Its aims are to:

  • personalise conversations to look at people’s holistic needs
  • co-produce a care plan
  • coordinate with other professionals in the team
  • ensure that people can find the details and support they need.

They will support people with cancer who are:

  • 18 years and over
  • residents of Tower Hamlets
  • living with very complex health and social needs
  • vulnerable and isolated
  • in need of proactive ongoing support close to home.

For more information please contact:

Read more about the Macmillan Navigation Service.

Take Home and Settle Cancer Support Service

The Macmillan Cancer Support Take Home & Settle Service in Tower Hamlets pilot is now over.

Age UK East London will take over the service.

It will still be available to Tower Hamlets residents who are over 18 years and undergoing:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiotherapy treatment.  

Age UK East London will assist people returning from hospital and ensure the home environment is safe, clean, and comfortable.

They will organise practical support at home and help with planning ahead for the treatment schedule. They can give reassurance and help with anxiety. They can also refer you to other support services if needed.

Age UK East London can visit regularly for a period of six weeks.   

If you would like to refer yourself or someone else, please contact Chris Tymkow on 07508499937 or email

How do you get referred?

People living with cancer can self-refer.

They can also be referred by their:

  • GP
  • cancer nurse at St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London hospitals
  • Macmillan Information and Support specialists at those hospitals

If you have any questions about cancer, please visit Macmillan’s website.

Or call their support line on 0808 808 00 00 (8am-8pm, 7 days a week).

Useful external links