Primary care trusts can bid for a share of an £8m government fund to help improve the early diagnosis of cancer, the Department of Health announced today.

Under the new initiative, primary care trusts could receive up to £100,000 to fund campaigns targeted at improving the early diagnosis of three biggest cancer killers: breast, colorectal and lung cancer.

The money could be used to fund a range of initiatives to encourage patients with symptoms to seek help earlier, such as advertising campaigns and outreach work, and to invest in new diagnostic services.

National cancer director Mike Richards said: “This money will enable the NHS locally to raise awareness of the symptoms of the biggest cancer killers and to encourage patients to visit their GP earlier.”

He added that the campaign also aims to encourage GPs to “play it safe” and refer patients for tests if they have any doubt.

The £8m investment follows prime minister Gordon Brown’s pledge last September to save 10,000 extra lives a year by ensuring that all patients with cancer symptoms receive the results of diagnostic tests within one week.