ONE of the they symptoms of Covid-19 is a new persistent cough but experts have warned that it is also a sign of the UK’s deadliest cancer.
New research from the NHS and Public Health England (PHE) has revealed that almost half of people do not know that a persistent cough for more than three weeks can be a lung cancer symptom.
It also found that 61 per of people (two thirds), would not make an appointment with their GP if they had a cough that lasted for three weeks or more – even if they had tested negative for Covid-19.
The NHS notes that if you do have a new persistent cough then you should get tested for Covid-19 – as well as if you have a high temperature and a loss on taste and smell.
But if you test negative and continue to have a cough you should seek advice from your GP.
The NHS is now urging people with cancer symptoms to come forward after over 30 per cent of people surveyed said they didn’t want to make an appointment as they felt as though they were burdening the NHS.
Celebrities have now joined forces with the NHS to highlight how important it is to visit your GP if you have any abnormal symptoms.
Sir Andrew Strauss, whose wife Ruth died at age 46 due to lung cancer, and presenter Gaby Roslin, whose mother died from the disease have backed the campaign.
The NHS states that each year, more than 39,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK.
If you catch the disease earlier then survival rates are higher.
If you are referred at stage one you have a 57.7 per cent chance of living for another five years, compared to 3.1 per cent for those diagnosed at stage four.
The NHS says its long term plan is to increase the number of cancer patients diagnosed early, at stage one or two, from half to three quarters.
Sir Andrew Strauss, Ex-England Cricket Captain and Founder of the Ruth Strauss Foundation, lost his wife to lung cancer in 2018 and highlighted that the disease is a risk for everyone.
He said: “This is a campaign very close to my heart after losing my wife.
“Ruth had never smoked a cigarette in her life and was unbelievably fit and healthy.
“It’s so important that if you notice any loved ones showing symptoms that could be a sign of cancer that you encourage them to contact their GP practice.”
CATCH IT EARLY
At present lung cancer referrals are at 73 per cent of the same point they were this time last year.
The NHS said that the main reasons people gave for not contacting their GP were wanting to wait to see if symptoms would go away on their own (25 per cent) and being worried about burdening the NHS (31 per cent).
Despite this, the research found that more than three quarters of people (76 per cent) would encourage their loved once to make an appointment if they kept coughing but had tested negative for Covid-19.
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER AND WHAT ARE THE MAIN SYMPTOMS?
Lung cancer involves the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that start off in one or both lungs – usually in the cells that line the air passages.
Instead of developing into healthy lung tissue, these cells divide rapidly and form tumours.
As these tumours grow and spread, they weaken the lung’s ability to provide the bloodstream with oxygen.
However, not all tumours are created equal.
Tumours that remain in one place and don’t appear to spread are known as “benign tumours”.
What are the symptoms?
While suffering with a lingering cough, feeling tired and losing your appetite could be mistaken for a virus or common cold, it may be the sign of something more serious and is worth getting check out.
Other symptoms of lung cancer can include:
- Having a cough most of the time
- A change in a cough you have had for a long time
- Being short of breath
- Coughing up phlegm which has signs of blood
- Aches or pains in the chest or shoulder
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
The Help Us Help You campaign will include a range of television adverts encouraging people who have an ongoing cough to contact their GP.
Television, radio and podcast presenter, Gaby Roslin said catching it early can make the biggest difference.
She said: “I remember sitting there on the phone to the doctor and she said ‘I’m afraid it is lung cancer’.
“Looking back on it my mum never told us how she was feeling, she was always making sure that we were all OK and making sure that my Dad was ok.”
From the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to December, the NHS states that 228,000 people started treatment for cancer, with 95 per cent of these starting it within a month.
Experts reiterated the messages from celebrities and said you shouldn’t delay speaking to your GP as it could save your life.
Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer for NHS England, said: “If you have had a negative Covid test but are still coughing after three weeks, do not delay – you must come forward to get a lung cancer check.
“Otherwise we are going to see people with cancer that’s become more advanced and much harder to treat.”
Prof Johnson said that while it was understandable that people didn’t want to burden the health service, the risk of a cancer that you don’t pay attention to is “much greater than Covid-19”.
He added: “GP practices have introduced a series of measures to make them Covid-safe.
“The NHS is open and ready to see anyone with a concerning symptom – it could save your life.”
Data from the NHS states that hospitals across England have carried out more than two cancer procedures for every patient they treated for coronavirus in 2020.
Dr Hilary Jones said the research shows the “pivotal” role friends and family can play in encouraging their loved ones to get help.
He said: “Whilst it’s probably nothing serious, it could be a sign of lung cancer and finding cancer earlier makes it more treatable.”
When it comes to cancer care across the NHS, it has introduced a series of innovations, including COVID-19-secure surgery hubs that were set up across the country.
Around £160 million was also invested in ‘Covid-19-friendly’ cancer drugs, that treat patients without having such a big impact on their immune system or offer other benefits such as fewer hospital visits.