The Power of Theatre in the Fight Against Cancer
We felt incredibly privileged to be asked to contribute to the recent bowel cancer screening launch event organized by Slough Clinical Commissioning Group and Macmillan Cancer Support.
The free event, at Slough’s Montem Leisure Centre, brought together people from across the Slough community to raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening, encourage communities and service providers to engage with each other and improve the health of individuals through prevention, early diagnosis and education.
Dr Nicky Myerscough, from Crosby House Surgery and the Macmillan Clinical Lead at the CCG, said: “This is a great opportunity to spread the word to the local community about the importance of screening. Unfortunately, Slough has low uptake rates which means that cancers often aren’t spotted until late. We hope that people will be encouraged to participate in screening so that potential problems can be detected and treated at an early stage, thus avoiding much unnecessary suffering for patients and their families.”
People automatically receive a simple bowel cancer screening test kit in the mail when they turn 60 and every two years thereafter, up to 74 years of age. As of December 2014, a total of 40,302 people between 60-74 years of age living in Slough had been invited to take part in the bowel cancer screening programme since its inception in 2006, but only 15,157 completed the test, leaving over 25,000 unscreened individuals.
Regular bowel cancer screening aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when patients may have no symptoms, so in an area where the take-up of bowel cancer screening tests is particularly low – compared to the national average – Slough CCG and Macmillan are particularly keen to empower individuals to make informed choices.
As part of their aim to make the recent launch memorable and engaging, Slough CCG/Macmillan asked us to create a piece of theatre that would explore the sensitive issues around bowel cancer in an absorbing way, to entertain an audience while delivering impactful messages, and reflect the cultural and social barriers to cancer screening.
So we worked with Slough CCG/Macmillan staff to understand their objectives and approached local playwright, Adam Foster, to script a 20-minute play that could be staged simply and effectively as part of the launch. Developed over a number of weeks, the final script explores the world of Rahul and his son, Jamal, and the development of their relationship over many years. The story, often told in flashback, culminates in Rahul being diagnosed with bowel cancer and the subsequent, heart-breaking repercussions.
CentreStage actors Pardip Kumar and Amit Kamliwala brought the two characters to life in what was a touching, often funny piece of theatre. The event also included healthy food demonstrations and tasting, Zumba and Tai Chi taster sessions and free health advice with over 30 local service providers setting up stalls on the day.
Gloria Askander, Programme Lead for Slough CCG / Macmillan Screening Improvement, said, “Over 320 people attended the community event and the feedback received has been very unlifting, positive and definately help to build greater awareness around bowel cancer and bowel cancer screening. The message we really wanted people to take away with them was; ‘that completeing the bowel cancer screening test can save your life’. The case studies and live drama appeared to have a significant impact on those who attended and we are sure that they will talk to their family, friends and community members about the importance of bowel cancer screening.”
For more information about the partnership work the CCG and Macmillan Cancer Support have been doing within the Slough community visit the Bowel Cancer Screening Improvement Programme page.