Increasing early diagnosis of bowel cancer for Bowel Cancer UK

Our input

  • Co-design
  • Engagement

Bowel Cancer is treatable and curable, yet it’s the UK’s second biggest cancer killer. Half of those diagnosed are in later stages when their bowel cancer is likely to be harder to treat, and less survivable.

Bowel Cancer UK wanted to run a campaign to improve early diagnosis, with a focus on those who are least likely to visit their GP with symptoms, including those from more deprived backgrounds.

We worked with the charity, its supporters, and academic experts to co-design a behaviour change campaign strategy to encourage people to seek help sooner for suspected symptoms.

Our research identified the critical barriers to address, including fear, fatalism, embarrassment, and distrust of GPs. We then tested and evolved creative territories – including mockup scamps of campaign ads – working with our co-design group of people living with bowel cancer. The group helped us further understand barriers and motivations, and to weed out any unintended consequences of potential messaging for those who are least likely to see their GP.

Our strategy built on the research insights to recommend an approach combining hope and urgency and one that addressed audience barriers specifically. We went on to undertake some mapping work to understand how people with potential bowel cancer symptoms seek further information and help, in order to get diagnosed. This supported the charity in improving its information provision for this important group, in turn increasing their chances of accessing life-saving healthcare.

We also engaged and briefed a specialist media agency to help deliver the campaign into the world, which we’re excited to see launch in spring 2024, and we expect to continue to provide Bowel Cancer UK with strategic advice and support well into the delivery phase of the campaign.