Wee c will kick fear of ‘Big C’ into touch

Campaign launch...at the Armadillo by cancer survivor Alex Watson, health minister Shona Robison and cancer charity representatives
Campaign launch...at the Armadillo by cancer survivor Alex Watson, health minister Shona Robison and cancer charity representatives

The wee c aims to change the way cancer is viewed in Scotland, reducing fear of a disease diagnosis and boosting survival rates.

Launched by the Scottish Government and 14 of Scotland’s leading cancer charities, the campaign urges people to join forces to turn the Big C into the wee c.

NHS Forth Valley and NHS Lothian are already playing their part in delivering the message.

Jennifer Wilson, the area’s oncology department and Macmillan lung cancer nurse specialist lead, said: “We’re proud to be contributing to Scotland’s wee c vision through encouraging people who are worried or suspect something is wrong to visit their GP.

“More lives can be saved with early diagnosis so by listening to your body and acting early, we can all help turn the Big C into the wee c.”

Early diagnosis is key, according to Elaine Anderson, consultant breast surgeon and associate medical director for NHS Lothian cancer services.

She explained: “A cancer that is diagnosed at an early stage, before it’s had a chance to get too big or to spread, is more likely to be treated successfully.

“We need to encourage more men and women to visit their GP as soon as they notice any potential signs or symptoms.

“Early diagnosis will help increase cancer survival rates and help turn the ‘big C’ in to the ‘wee c’.”

Twelve Scottish celebrities have also signed up to promote the wee c.

Among them is West Lothian racing driver Dario Franchitti.

He said: “By highlighting the developments and progress going on to bring cancer down to size, hopefully more people in Scotland will seek help if they have concerns.

“I would like people to realise that thanks to earlier detection and positive advancements in research and treatments, innovation and investment, cancer is not what it used to be.

“It can be beaten, and often cured, and coming forward sooner rather than later could make all the difference.”

Alex Watson, from Lenzie, is relishing life after receiving a testicular cancer diagnosis, aged just 23.

Now 43, he attributes his survival to the scientists who have worked hard to understand the disease and develop new treatments.

At the campaign launch, Alex said: “I feel incredibly fortunate to be cured and to have survived testicular cancer.

“I’m proof that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean a death sentence – 20 years on, I am living life to the full.”

The ‘Big C’ is still a term commonly used by the nation when referring to cancer – reinforcing a fatalistic view of the disease.

Research has shown this fear is a key barrier to people presenting with potential signs or symptoms and attending screening. This can often result in later stage diagnoses, when the chance of survival is lower.

The wee c is focused on highlighting that cancer isn’t what it used to be.

Thanks to earlier detection, research break-throughs and treatment advances, Scotland is making positive strides towards bringing cancer down to size.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said: “I know how daunting it can be to get a cancer diagnosis.

“However, cancer isn’t what it used to be with more people than ever before now surviving a diagnosis.

“This is why it is time for the other, more positive side of the story to be told – essentially turning the Big C into the wee c.”

Around 15,800 men and women diagnosed this year will survive cancer compared to 9500 30 years ago. That’s enough to fill Glasgow’s Armadillo five times over!

And these figures could increase further if early detection rates improved.

Shona added: “The reality is that there are around 176,000 people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with cancer over the last 20 years who are still alive.

“Reframing the way cancer is viewed goes hand-in-hand with boosting survival rates.

“If we can raise awareness of what is being done to tackle cancer, we’ll hopefully, in time, be able to address the fear people have in seeing their GP.

“The earlier you get checked the better – it could save your life.

“It’s hugely encouraging to see so many charities uniting to kick-start the wee c – this demonstrates the collective will behind reducing this fatalistic view of cancer and boosting survival rates.”

Around 1000 deaths could be avoided each year in Scotland if cancer survival matched the best in Europe.

Gregor McNie, senior public affairs manager at Cancer Research UK, welcomed the campaign.

He added: “Being told you have cancer are words half of us will hear at some point.

“But there is less to fear from a cancer diagnosis than ever before with survival being at an all-time high and one in two people surviving for ten years or more.

“There’s still more to be done which is why this is such an important move.”


Fourteen leading cancer charities in Scotland have joined forces to promote the wee c.

Giving the campaign their backing are Cancer Research UK, Teenage Cancer Trust, Prostate Cancer UK, Cancer Support Scotland, OCHRE – the oesophageal cancer charity, Breast Cancer Care, Breast Cancer Now, Scottish Cancer Prevention Network, Kidney Cancer Scotland, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Bowel Cancer UK, MASScot and Challenge Breast Cancer Scotland.

A host of companies have also lined up to give it their support, with backing secured from Baxters, Jenners, House of Fraser, Tesco Bank, Aviva, Asda, Standard Life, Stagecoach, M&Co and whisky firm Edrington.

Readers can show their support for, and play a part in, the wee c in a range of ways. 

Suggestions are now listed on the campaign’s website at www.theweec.org.

These include volunteering, maintaining a healthy body weight and making meetings healthy.

A series of initiatives are being promoted under the campaign banner including If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Lump It; Catch Bowel Cancer With Its Trousers Down and Dress Your Legs for Cancer Research.

To find out more, visit the website www.theweec.org.