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'Don't ignore three week cough'

Published: 2 Nov 2015 00:01

Latest statistics show increase in percentage diagnosed with lung cancer at earliest stage.

A father of four who was diagnosed with lung cancer after getting a persistent cough checked out, has urged people with similar symptoms or worries to see their GP, as Lung Cancer Awareness Month gets underway.

The call came as latest statistics reveal that the percentage of patients diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage (stage one) has increased by 24.7 per cent since the launch of the Scottish Government's Detect Cancer Early programme 1.

However, with 48 per cent of lung cancers in Scotland being diagnosed at the latest stage of the disease (stage four)2, it's important people don't ignore the potential signs and symptoms, as the earlier lung cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

Statistics show people are around 20 times more likely to survive lung cancer if it's detected at an early stage compared to a late stage3, like Farouk Dangor, 62 from Maybole in Ayrshire.

His early stage tumour was removed in June 2008 – one month after visiting his GP - and he was given the all-clear from cancer in June 2013.

Farouk shared his story to encourage people who have a cough for three weeks or more not to ignore it – as he knows getting checked at an early stage, and the subsequent swift treatment he received, saved his life.

Following the latest phase of the Detect Cancer Early lung cancer campaign – fronted by Sir Alex Ferguson - almost two thirds (62 per cent) cited a cough as a potential symptom of lung cancer, an increase of nine per cent compared to pre-campaign, with over a quarter (25 per cent) mentioning a three week cough4.

Speaking about his experience, Farouk said:

"I went to my GP after having a cough for a few weeks. It wouldn't shift so I wanted to get it checked. I was given antibiotics and told to come back if nothing changed. When the cough wouldn't go away, I returned to my doctor who referred me for an x-ray.

"I thought it was a run of the mill health check and was absolutely stunned when the doctor told me to come back at the end of the week for a biopsy. Before the tests, I didn't think it was that serious. I just remember being in a complete daze.

"I went in for surgery, where they removed the upper left lobe of my lungs. Because the tumour was removed, I thankfully didn't need to undergo any chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"The good thing is that I'm still here, more than seven years after my diagnosis. My breathing is sometimes laborious but that can all depend on the lovely Scottish weather we have. But as I said, I'm here and there was no better feeling than getting the all-clear.

"That is why I feel so passionate about helping encourage others to get checked sooner rather than later. Listen to your body, and if something isn't right, make sure you see your GP."

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Scotland. However, thanks to advancements in treatment and increased rates of early detection, more people than ever in Scotland are surviving lung cancer – 1,300 more a year compared to 25 years ago.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison said:

"Farouk's story highlights the importance of not ignoring a cough that lasts for three weeks or more. It's probably nothing to worry about, but if you have a persistent cough that's not going away, your GP wants to see you.

"It's hugely encouraging that there has been an increase in the percentage of patients diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage, and that there is increasing recognition of the signs and symptoms.

"However, even more lives could be saved through earlier detection so the message we want to get across this Lung Cancer Awareness Month is don't get scared, get checked."

Irene Johnstone, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said:

"Late presentation and diagnosis is one of the main reasons lung cancer survival rates in Scotland lag so far behind rates in Europe and the US, as well as rates for other cancers.

"Evidence from the Scottish Detect Cancer Early programme suggests that major public awareness campaigns are starting to increase early diagnosis rates, hinting that we may be starting to turn around our record on lung cancer."

Lorraine Dallas, Director of Information & Support, Roy Castle Lung Foundation said:

"If someone is worried about lung cancer symptoms, such as a cough that has lasted more than three weeks, it is vital to see their GP. We know that if lung cancer is picked up early your chances of being alive five years later are 20 times better. Lung cancer is treatable, potentially curable, so if you are worried, get checked."

Notes to editors

For further information visit www.getcheckedearly.org

1 Detect Cancer Early Staging Data (2013 & 2014 calendar years combined; published 18 August 2015) compared to Detect Cancer Early Data Baseline (2010 & 2011 calendar years combined; published 28 May 2013), Information Services Division Scotland.

2 Detect Cancer Early Staging Data, 2013 & 2014 calendar years combined; published 18 August 2015.

3 Scottish Cancer Registry, ISD, extracted September 2014, based on patients diagnosed in 2005-2007.

4 TNS attitudinal tracking, comparing the attitudes of the campaign target audience (55+ C1C2DEs) in October 2014 (a sample of 402 interviewed pre campaign) to February 2015 (a sample of 372 interviewed post campaign).

Potential signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough you've had for 3 weeks or more.
  • A cough you've had for a long time that's got worse or changes.
  • Feeling breathless for no reason.
  • A chest infection that doesn't clear up.
  • Coughing blood.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Chest or shoulder pains.
  • Unexplained tiredness or lack of energy.
  • A hoarse voice.