Mother calls for lung cancer screening on the Isle of Man after losing partner in just eight weeks

A mother has spoken of her 'irreplaceable loss' following the death of her partner.

Paul Smith, from the Isle of Man, died from lung cancer on 15 February 2022, eight weeks after his diagnosis.

Paul's partner, Sharon Langley, said: "He was funny, crazy, very loving and very supportive. My kids loved him, he was just wonderful".

She continued: "When he told me what the doctor had said, I could not believe it.

"This was a man who had absolutely no idea he had, none of us did, that he had lung cancer. And nobody could quite believe how quickly it took hold".

A recent report by Manx Care found lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the Isle of Man.

The family are now campaigning for screening to be a priority in the island.

Sharon added: "If he was here now living with lung cancer, he'd be the first here talk and try and fight to get this screening in to help other people.

"He's wonderful, and completely irreplaceable."

Paul and his two sisters Helen Gough (left) and Julie McCutcheon (right). Credit: Family photo

Paul began to feel unwell in August 2020, but it was not until he developed a cough that he decided to see a doctor.

He was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, and just eight weeks later, passed away.

Sharon said: "Paul was getting a little tired, he was a very hard worker so we put tiredness down to just general everyday life so it took a long time to persuade him just to get checked out because he wasn't ill.

"That's when they said the general prognosis was pretty poor, and that without any treatment he would probably have two months.

"Sadly after that he rapidly deteriorated, he developed a really bad pain in his kidneys, and a week later he was in a hospice, and four days later he passed away."

Sharon and Paul. Credit: Family picture

Paul's sister, Helen Gough said: "The loss is massive. I kept saying you need to go to the doctor but he's a bloke and didn't want to go to the doctor and thankfully Sharon stepped in."

"We didn't know the signs, Paul certainly didn't know the signs and actually the signs were so subtle, I just couldn't believe that our youngest brother was going to die."

Paul's eldest sister Julie McCutcheon added: "What I could see was the shock in Paul's face many times as if to say 'I can't believe I've got this'.

"I don't believe there's any awareness, I really don't, because if there was, we would have known about it".

"You feel that emptiness," she added, "there's a gaping hole in your life now because your baby brother is not there anymore."

Paul Smith died of lung cancer in February 2021 at 56-years-old. Credit: Family picture

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Anyone can develop lung cancer, men and women, young and old, smokers and non-smokers.

Symptoms can include:

  • Persistent cough that lasts three weeks or more

  • Breathlessness

  • Repeat chest infections

  • Chest and/or shoulder pain

  • Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss

  • Change in a long term cough, or a cough that gets worse

  • Coughing up blood

  • Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy

  • Hoarseness

  • Finger clubbing

  • Blood clots

Heather Christian has been living with lung cancer since her diagnosis in 2016.

In December 2017, Heather was told her cancer had stabilised and she has since dedicated her time as the patient advocate for the Isle of Man's Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation charity.

The charity has launched a campaign called 'On the Right Path' focusing on the importance of symptoms and early diagnosis. 

In the UK, 130 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every day.

The charity say targeted screening of the disease is 'recommended' for those over 55.

But in the Isle of Man, a screening service is not available.

"For that cancer not to be screened for is terrible," Sharon said.

"At 55 to have that scan, and it's a low-grade CT scan it would have been found and this would not have happened and he would not have died."

Paul and Sharon. Credit: Family picture

Manx Care has responded saying they will 'continue monitoring advice' from the UK before implementing a screening programme.

In a statement they said: "We recognise the importance of catching lung cancer early in providing effective treatment and support to patients and families and we are following the National Screening Committee’s research closely.

"It’s pleasing to see that the early research and interim recommendations around targeted screening is moving forward, but there is still a range of work that would need to be undertaken before any policy changes in the UK or Isle of Man.

"The committee requires more modelling work in order to refine its recommendations, address implementation challenges and determine optimum protocols and pathway screening across the UK.

"We will await this work and continue monitoring advice and guidance before we can begin planning for an early screening programme in the Isle of Man."

More on the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation can be found here.