A cough that won't go away is one of the earliest signs of lung cancer
If you ever think about lung cancer you probably imagine someone who is obviously ill, sick, has difficulty breathing and a rattling cough, but in its early stages lung cancer may just manifest as a long-lasting cough. And according to data from Cancer Research UK, as few as one in 10 people are actually aware that one of the earliest symptoms of lung cancer is a cough that lasts for more than three weeks.
The majority of lung cancer patients are over 55 – and each year 33,000 people are affected in England alone. Like many cancers, if it is caught early enough treatment can help prolong life; while people whose disease is only diagnosed at a later stage are unlikely to live for five years after it is first discovered.
“Earlier diagnosis of lung cancer combined with the best treatments could help save an additional 1,300 lives a year,” says Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director for England. More than half of those diagnosed with lung cancer are diagnosed at such a late stage that it is too late for curative treatment – if the tumour hasn’t spread beyond the chest then surgery may be viable. This is why it is essential that more people become aware of the signs of lung cancer.
Researchers questioned more than 1,000 people aged 55 and above about their knowledge of various symptoms in relation to lung cancer. Alarmingly, only one in 10 knew that a cough lasting more than three weeks could be an early symptom of lung cancer. When the researchers compared data from a previous study undertaken by Cancer Research UK, they found that people were far more aware of what to look out for when it comes to other cancers. Most people knew to that a lump could be a sign of breast cancer, 31% knew that rectal bleeding could indicate bowel cancer and 25% knew that changes in a mole could indicate skin cancer.
In response to this lack of awareness, Cancer Research UK is launching the Be Clear on Cancer campaign – urging people who have had a cough for more than three weeks to see their GP. Other symptoms of lung cancer include coughing up blood, worsening breathlessness, weight loss and fatigue, as well as persistent pain in the chest.