Cancer campaign could also boost TB detection

By on 05/07/2013 in News

Dr Adrian PhillipsHealth officials in Birmingham hope 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

Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian 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.”


Around 5,000 children from high risk groups in the city are vaccinated against TB at birth each year and a migrant screening service operates at the Finch Road Clinic in Lozells.

There were 1,230 TB cases in Birmingham between 2002 and 2011.

The incidence rate per 100,000 population in Birmingham was 29 in 1992 but increased to 51 by 2008.

Most cases (2002-2011) were concentrated in a small number of electoral wards: 51% of all cases in seven CAS (census area statistics) wards:

  • Soho, 8%
  • Sparkbrook, 8%
  • Small Heath, 7%
  • Aston, 7%
  • Washwood Heath, 7%
  • Handsworth, 7%
  • Sandwell, 7%)

The majority of cases were born overseas with 72% of patients in the three years (2009-2011) born abroad; 58% of these individuals had entered the UK 6 years or more before being diagnosed. Over the five years (2007-11), the majority of patients were of Pakistani (36%), Indian (20%), and Black-African (19%) ethnic origin.

Health Protection Agency (HPA) statistics for 2009 show wide differences between ethnic groups in Birmingham in the rate of TB cases per 100,000 population. 70 % of those with diagnosed TB had not been born in the UK.

  • Black African: 280.2
  • Pakistani: 142.3
  • Indian: 112.8
  • Black other: 50.8
  • Bangladeshi: 43.1
  • Black Caribbean: 41.5
  • Mixed other: 33.7
  • Chinese: 17.5
  • White: 5.0

For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 3033501

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