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Only one in ten recognise persistent cough as lung cancer symptom

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Just one in 10 people realise that a persistent cough could be a key symptom of lung cancer, according to statistics released by the government as it launches a campaign to raise awareness about the disease.

Despite the condition killing more people than any other form of cancer in England, very few people are aware a cough lasting three weeks is a sign of a potential sufferer.

An advertising drive backed by Ricky Gervais and Lynda Bellingham has been launched in a bid to raise awareness about the issue and improve earlier diagnosis in England.

It is hoped Be Clear on Cancer campaign will help save around 1,300 lives a year.

Health minister Paul Burstow said: “Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in this country but worryingly many people don’t know the signs and symptoms that could save their lives.

“The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of survival.

“The message from this campaign is simple; if you have a persistent cough for three weeks or more, visit your GP.”

Lung cancer affects 33,000 people every year in England with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55.

When diagnosed at its earliest stage, as many as 80% of people are alive five years after diagnosis compared with only seven per cent diagnosed at a late stage.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, National Cancer Director for England, said: “It is vital that cancer patients get treated quickly so they have the best chance of surviving. We have made early diagnosis central to our Cancer Outcomes Strategy.

“Earlier diagnosis of Lung Cancer combined with the best treatments could help save an additional 1,300 lives a year.”

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, added: “We really hope people will begin to associate a persistent cough as a symptom of lung cancer, the way they associate a lump as a symptom of breast or testicular cancer.”

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Dear Nursing Times, this is very interesting and we are delighted that the government are launching the 'Be Clear on Cancer national campaign. However the word smoking has not been mentioned in this article as being a main cause of lung cancer's (as much as 90%). Smoking kills and remains the biggest single leading cause of preventable death and health inequalities.We would like to see this as a great opportunity for the campaign to work collaboratively with the specialist NHS Stop Smoking service.

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  • Good to see lung cancer being focussed on.
    I've read the quote above about smoking and would like to make a few comments about this:
    We all know that smoking and lung cancer are linked-and smokers do too.
    This is one reason why smokers don't go to their GPs with symptoms as early as they could-the fear of what is happening to them in combination with a culture of blame.guilt, denial and knowing they may get a lecture about something that is a complex addiction.
    So the fact that there is no mention of smoking may be a well thought out attempt to address this country's poor lung cancer record, by being non-judgemental.
    ps. I am an ex-smoking nurse who has lost 2 close relatives with lung cancer.
    pps. I hope that GPs will be taking note of this campaign too, as in my family's experience, cancer is all too often a (too) late consideration for symptom in younger patients.

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  • Totally agree with both comments. Great if the Specialist stop smoking services have a profile during this campaign.

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