Primary Care Oncology

What we do

The UK has poorer cancer outcomes than many other similar countries, and a rising cancer incidence. Our work attempts to address both of these problems by focusing on how to detect and diagnose cancer earlier, and promote behavioural changes to prevent cancer development and improve outcomes after a cancer diagnosis.

Our work on early diagnosis is based on the premise that people diagnosed with later stage disease are less likely to receive curative treatment. 90% of patients who are diagnosed with cancer initially present with symptoms to primary care. Finding out how to expedite cancer diagnosis has the potential to improve cancer outcomes, and facilitate a better patient experience.

An estimated 40% of cancer cases are attributable to environmental and behavioural risk factors. These factors also play a role in cancer survivorship. Pharmacological approaches (chemoprevention) can reduce risk for certain populations. To address the increasing incidence of cancer and improve cancer outcomes, our work focuses on supporting individuals to adopt risk reduction behaviours.

This work includes:

  • The development and evaluation of interventions that may lead to earlier stage diagnosis.
  • Investigation of the psychological factors affecting chemoprevention use, lifestyle behaviour change and cancer screening uptake.
  • The development and evaluation of lifestyle interventions for cancer prevention (primary and secondary).


  • Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis.
  • The Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial.
  • CanTest – Detecting cancer in primary care: a paradigm shift in cancer diagnosis.
  • WICKED (Wales Interventions and Cancer Knowledge about Early Diagnosis): The development and evaluation of primary care interventions to expedite the diagnosis of symptomatic cancer in Wales.
  • Developing and feasibility testing an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) intervention for improving medication-taking behaviour in women with early stage invasive breast cancer (the ACTION trial).
  • Advantages, disadvantages and impacts of different diagnostic pathways in colorectal cancer: routine data analysis and stakeholder interviews.
  • The effect of adding a personalised smoking cessation intervention to a lung cancer screening programme.
  • Clinical decision support for suspected cancer: implementation in primary care and long term follow-up (ECASS2).
  • Understanding the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and current use of cancer diagnostic tools to aid decision-making in primary care.
  • Awareness and Beliefs About Cancer (ABACus): randomised controlled trial of the health check intervention to improve cancer symptom awareness and help seeking among people living in socioeconomically deprived communities.
  • Energy Balance and Cancer: Health behaviours after cancer survey and Advancing Survival after Cancer Outcomes Trial (ASCOT) (Joint Primary Investigator with Dr Abi Fisher, UCL, £190k).
  • Cancer Screening as a ‘Teachable Moment’ for Risk Reduction Behaviour. (PhD studentship, Primary Investigator/Primary Supervisor, £150k).
  • Conversation Time: Exploring predictors of receptiveness to a discussion about physical activity and cancer prevention. (Primary Investigator, £20k).
  • Development of a school and family based nutrition intervention for cancer prevention in areas of high social deprivation (CooKKit - COOking Kit for Kids). (Primary Investigator, £20k).
  • Delivery of a habit-based intervention ’10 Top Tips for a Healthy Weight’ to pregnant women affected by overweight or obesity on the island of Ireland: a feasibility study exploring integration into existing antenatal care pathways. (Co-Investigator, £565k).
  • Exercising with a Stoma: A feasibility study of a physical activity intervention to improve the quality of life of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or bowel cancer after stoma-creating surgery (Co-Investigator for two grants, £80k).
  • Obesity Policy Research Unit (Affiliate, £4.8m).
  • Developing and feasibility testing an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) interventION for improving medication-taking behaviour in women with early stage invasive breast cancer: The ACTION trial (Primary Investigator, £356k).
  • Aspirin for Cancer Prevention Collaboration (AsCAP) (£5m, collaborator).
  • UK Colorectal Cancer Intelligence – creating the UK COloRECTal cancer Repository (CORECT-R) (£3.4m, Co-Investigator)
  • Improving web-based communications about cervical cancer screening using graphs: an interdisciplinary approach (£184k, Co-Investigator).

Who we are


Theme Lead
Professor Richard Neal

View our team members

Related groups

Primary care oncology is a theme that sits within the Division of Primary Care, Palliative Care and Public Health [ LINK ], alongside the following other themes/units: