The NHS in the North East and Yorkshire have launched a new campaign for people to better recognise the signs of lung cancer, after figures suggest that people at risk of the disease may not be coming forward for care.
Lung Cancer is the biggest cause of cancer deaths in England. Last year it was the fifth biggest cause of death in England accounting for 26,410 deaths. Referrals have been slower to return to pre-pandemic levels than other types of cancer.
The health service is encouraging people with symptoms, such as a persistent cough for longer than three weeks, coughing up blood or persistent breathlessness to contact their GP.
The campaign will target the groups of people most at risk including over-60s, and people who are often more reluctant to visit their GP practice, which is critical to getting an early diagnosis.
Ric Myers, 69, was treated at the Macmillan Robert Ogden Centre in Harrogate.
He first sought advice from his GP in 2016 when he developed a persistent cough and chest infection. His doctor sent him for an x-ray and, after a few weeks of monitoring and one further x-ray, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
He had surgery to remove a tumour the size of a cherry tomato from his lung and, after receiving clear scans, he was declared cancer free in December 2017.
Ric said: “I’d always had what I called a smoker’s cough, but this time something told me I needed to get it checked out – I noticed it was different this time. The doctor told me there was something there, possibly cancer, and the impact of that word really is what people say it is. You automatically assume the worst.”
The cancer is now static, under control and being regularly monitored.
He continued: “I’m so glad I sought advice when I did. I’m six years down the track. I am living proof that if you catch it early enough you can survive lung cancer much better. I have been lucky and I want other people to have the same luck as me by getting an early diagnosis.”
Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “We are going further and faster in our efforts to tackle cancer and have seen record numbers of people coming forward for tests and checks in the last year thanks to our campaigns and early diagnosis initiatives, but for lung cancer, we have not seen referrals bounce back at the same rate as other cancers.
“It is vital that people stay alert against suspected lung cancer symptoms, so if you have a continuous cough or breathlessness, don’t ignore or assume it’s something else, please visit your GP and get it checked out – it probably won’t be cancer but catching it early can help save lives.”
Symptoms of Lung Cancer:
a cough that doesn’t go away after 2 or 3 weeks
a long-standing cough that gets worse
chest infections that keep coming back
coughing up blood
an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
persistent tiredness or lack of energy
loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
Advice if you have any of these symptoms is to contact your GP.
Source: NHS England
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