“Don't ignore a persistent cough”

By on 02/07/2013 in News

Figures reveal people in the Midlands and East 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 - 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 8,172 cases in the Midlands and East of England . 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.

One of the reasons behind the Midland and East of England's low early diagnosis rate is the public's lack of awareness about the disease and its symptoms. New survey data shows :

  • Almost 75 per cent of people in the Midlands and East 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, 27 per cent of people in the Midlands and East of England think that all age groups are equally at risk of lung cancer;
  • 38 per cent 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.

Dr Rashmi Shukla, Regional Director for PHE Midlands and East of England, said:

“The figures from the Midlands and East 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 Midlands and East of England 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.

“There will be local events to raise awareness in the coming weeks but, if you spot any of the symptoms do visit your GP.”

Dr Helen Carter, Consultant in Healthcare Public Health for PHE West Midlands, said:

“In 2010 2,924 people died from lung cancer in the West Midlands region, with 3,484 cases of lung cancer registered in total that year; making our region the third worst in the country. We can improve these figures by raising public awareness of the signs of lung cancer, to aid early diagnosis, and by encouraging people to stop smoking. Anyone thinking of quitting smoking should call the NHS Smokefree Helpline for details of their local stop smoking service.”

For information on services to help with stopping smoking contact NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 022 4332 or visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk/ways-to-quit.

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 per cent increase in lung cancer cases diagnosed compared with a year earlier. 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.

Notes to Editors

1. Public Health England is a new executive agency of the Department of Health, which took up its full responsibilities on 1 April 2013. PHE will work with national and local government, industry and the NHS to protect and improve the nation’s health and support healthier choices and will be addressing inequalities by focusing on removing barriers to good health. To find out more, visit our website www.gov.uk/phe and follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

2. The Be Clear on Cancer lung cancer campaign first ran nationally in England last summer (May to June 2012). Prior to this, it was piloted in the East and West Midlands for five weeks in October to November 2011.

3. The Be Clear on Cancer campaign is part of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative, run in partnership with Cancer Research UK, to improve England's cancer survival rates.

4. The Government's priorities for cancer as set out in Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer (January 2011) includes the ambition to save an additional 5,000 lives per year by 2014/15.

5. Dr Jesme Fox, medical director of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said:

“As a national lung cancer charity, we welcome this campaign and are very supportive of it. Knowing the symptoms of lung cancer might just save your life, or the life of someone you love. If you have new or worsening symptoms, such as a persistent cough, it is really important to get checked out by your GP. The chances are, you won’t have lung cancer. But, if you do, it is important to be diagnosed as early as possible to give yourself the best chance of being cured.”

6. Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy, said:

“Detecting lung cancer early and ensuring people get the best possible treatment is vital for better survival. Lung cancer remains our biggest killer - responsible for around a quarter of all cancer deaths – and the UK's survival rates lag behind comparable countries. Campaigns to increase awareness of the disease and its symptoms and to reduce the fear of getting signs checked out are very welcome. We can and must do more to improve our lung cancer survival rates, and alongside campaigns, Cancer Research UK is investing in research initiatives to help our understanding of the disease and to develop new and kinder treatments to beat it.”

7. Lung cancer symptoms:

The main symptom is a persistent cough for three weeks or more. Other symptoms include:

  • a cough that has got worse or changes
  • repeated chest infections
  • coughing up blood
  • breathlessness
  • feeling more tired than usual for some time
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • an ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time


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

Regional lung cancer data

Region Total number of lung cancer cases registered in 2010

Total number of lung cancer deaths registered in 2010
Persons Males Females Persons Males Females
North West 5,895 3,164 2,731 4,796 2,593 2,203
Yorkshire and The Humber 4,014 2,162 1,852 3,353 1,824 1,529
West Midlands 3,484 2,022 1,462 2,924 1,691 1,233
London 3,428 1,937 1,491 2,843 1,574 1,269
South West 3,409 1,946 1,463 2,720 1,583 1,137
East of England 3,379 1,924 1,455 2,806 1,639 1,167
East Midlands 3,007 1,693 1,314 2,442 1,445 997
South East Coast 2,535 1,404 1,131 2,259 1,275 984
North East 2,490 1,259 1,231 2,047 1,031 1,016
South Central 2,138 1,227 911 1,850 1,073 777
England 33,779 18,738 15,041 28,040 15,728 12,312

West Midlands

Health and Wellbeing Board Total number of lung cancer cases registered in 2010 Total number of lung cancer deaths registered in 2010
Persons Males Females Persons Males Females
Birmingham 597 362 235 529 315 214
Stoke-on-Trent 200 112 88 160 87 73
Wolverhampton 169 109 60 149 92 57
County of Herefordshire 110 64 46 100 52 48
Coventry 195 104 91 166 96 70
Dudley 216 131 85 157 86 71
Sandwell 238 147 91 186 117 69
Shropshire 180 105 75 157 98 59
Solihull 160 72 88 126 65 61
Staffordshire 500 297 203 432 253 179
Telford and Wrekin 79 40 39 72 35 37
Walsall 194 113 81 163 104 59
Warwickshire 329 195 134 262 138 124
Worcestershire 317 171 146 265 153 112
West Midlands 3,484 2,022 1,462 2,924 1,691 1,233

For more information contact PHE West Midlands press office on 0121 232 9223/4

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