2 July 2013

"Don't ignore a persistent cough"

Figures reveal that people in the South of England are unaware of symptoms of lung cancer

Almost 24,000 people a year in England receive a lung cancer diagnosis when the disease is at a late stage[1] – only around 15 per cent of cases are diagnosed at the earliest stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

The next phase of the NHS Be Clear on Cancer campaign launches today to drive awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and to encourage people with a persistent cough to see their GP early.

Lung cancer is currently England's biggest cancer killer, causing around 28,000 deaths each year, with 6,829 cases in the South of England [2]. 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.[3]

One of the reasons behind the South of England’s low early diagnosis rate is the public’s lack of awareness about the disease and its symptoms. New survey data shows[4]:

Almost three quarters, 74% of people in the South of England are unaware that lung cancer is England’s biggest cancer killer;
Despite the fact that lung cancer is most common in people aged over 50, 25% of people in South England think that all age groups are equally at risk of lung cancer; and

49% of people are unaware that a cough that has lasted three weeks or more is a potential symptom of lung cancer.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign, which first ran in summer 2012, aims to make people aware of the symptoms of lung cancer and encourage them to visit their GP if they have had a cough for three weeks or more. 

Jenny Harries, Regional Director of Public Health for the South of England said:

“The figures from the South of England show that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the signs of lung cancer and ultimately save more lives.

“Results from previous activity in the South are really encouraging but awareness levels of a persistent cough as a symptom of lung cancer are still low. 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.”

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 saw a 14% increase in lung cancer cases diagnosed compared with a year earlier.[1]

“However, more needs to be done for our survival rates to be as good as the best in Europe. If they were, it is estimated that around 1,300 deaths could be avoided each year.”

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will see adverts – fronted by real GPs – on TV, print and radio from today until mid-August. Face-to-face events will also take place in shopping centres across the country.



[1] National Lung Cancer Audit. Note: late stage of diagnosis refers to those diagnosed at stages 3 and 4 for NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancers) or extensive disease for SCLC (small cell lung cancers). Around 33,800 patients are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in England

[2] Source: Data provided by Public Health England, West Midlands Knowledge & Intelligence Team, on behalf of the United Kingdom Association of Cancer Registries, May 2013

[3] 35 per cent of people diagnosed at the earliest stage (TNM stage 1) survive at least five years compared to under 7 per cent for those diagnosed at a late stage (TNM stage 3 & 4). Source: The National Cancer Registration Service (NCRS), Eastern Office; patients diagnosed with lung cancer during 2003-2006 in the former Anglia Cancer Network

[4] Online omnibus survey conducted with representative sample of 1045 adults aged 16+ in England between 7 – 10 June 2013 by TNS BMRB