Don't ignore a persistent cough

Published 02 July 2013  |  

A new lung cancer campaign is encouraging people with a persistent cough to see their GP early.

The NHS's Be Clear on Cancer campaign is driving awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.

Figures from the campaign reveal that almost 24,000 people a year in England are diagnosed with lung cancer at a late stage.

The campaign says that those diagnosed at the earliest stage are five times more likely to survive lung cancer for at least five years than those diagnosed at a late stage. However, only around 15% of cases are diagnosed at this stage.

Lung cancer is responsible for the greatest share of cancer deaths in England. Around 28,000 people are dying from lung cancer each year and around 33,800 are diagnosed.

The NHS believes people with lung cancer are missing an early diagnosis because of lack of awareness about the disease and its symptoms.

New NHS data reveals that almost three-quarters (73%) of people are unaware that lung cancer is England's biggest cancer killer. Although lung cancer is most common among over-50s, one in four people (26%) think that all age groups are equally at risk of lung cancer.

And 40% of people are unaware that a cough that has lasted three weeks or more is a potential symptom of lung cancer.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said too many people with a persistent cough thought it would clear up on its own.

"These figures show that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the signs of lung cancer and ultimately save more lives," he said.

"Only by increasing awareness of potential symptoms, and encouraging people to visit their doctor sooner rather than later, will we see the number of early diagnoses, and people surviving the disease, start to rise."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "More people die from lung cancer than any other cancer in England, but many people don't know the signs and symptoms that could save their lives. The message from this campaign is clear - if you have a persistent cough, go and see your doctor. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment will be successful.

"I am committed to improving cancer survival rates and have set out an ambition to save an extra 5,000 lives every year by 2014 - getting people diagnosed early is one part of our drive to have the best cancer services in the world."

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: "Awareness campaigns like this are especially important in getting people with potential symptoms into doctors' surgeries.

"During the regional pilot, trusts within the campaign area saw a 14% increase in lung cancer cases diagnosed compared with a year earlier, whereas there was only a 4.7% increase in trusts outside the pilot area."

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