Be Clear on Cancer and TB

By on 11/03/2014 in News

Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips hopes a national lung cancer awareness campaign will also lead to increased TB detection rates across the city.

Birmingham Public Health is supporting the NHS's Be Clear on Cancer campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, especially a cough that lasts for three weeks or more.

This is also one of the commonest ways that TB presents in all ages.

In addition to a persistent cough, other symptoms include:

  • A cough that has got worse or changes
  • Coughing up blood
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling more tired than usual for some time
  • Losing weight for no obvious reason
  • An ache or pain in the chest or shoulder that has lasted some time

Dr Phillips, is fully behind the campaign and believes it will also aid the fight to tackle TB in Birmingham.

TB symptoms to look out for include:

  • a persistent cough of more than three weeks that brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
  • breathlessness, which is usually mild to begin with and gradually gets worse
  • lack of appetite and weight loss
  • a high temperature of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • night sweats
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • unexplained pain for more than three weeks

Dr Phillips said: “Anyone with a persistent cough for three weeks or more should definitely see their GP as soon as possible. As the Be Clear on Cancer campaign states, this could be one of the signs of lung cancer. It could also be one of the symptoms of tuberculosis. The big difference is that TB can occur at any age and lung cancer tends to be seen in older people.

“It's very straightforward for your doctor to examine you and determine whether to send you for a chest X-ray. The process is simple and will quickly determine whether you require treatment.

“TB is often wrongly considered a disease of the past. In fact, it is very much present within some areas of Birmingham and affects the very young right through to the elderly.

“TB can be cured with medication, but untreated it can kill. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body, such as the glands, the bones and sometimes the brain.

“Symptoms can take several months to appear and often include a fever and night sweats, persistent cough, weight loss and blood in your spit.

“Infected people may not feel ill or show symptoms if their immune system can keep the bacteria under control.

“About one-third of the world's people are infected without showing symptoms. When someone's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick are greater.”


  • Figures released in August last year show there were 1,085 TB cases in the West Midlands in 2012 – up 77 on the previous 12 months.
  • There were 455 cases in Birmingham.
  • The West Midlands has a TB rate of 19.3 people per 100,000 population, compared to 15.2 nationally.
  • Almost three quarters of cases were in people born abroad in countries where TB is more common, with most victims being from South Asia.
  • TB is an infection caused by bacteria. It usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body. TB is transmitted when someone who has the infection coughs or sneezes, but it requires close prolonged contact in order to spread from person to person. For more information about tuberculosis, please visit:

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