The Let’s Talk Lung Cancer roadshow, run between NHS England and Roy Castle Lung Foundation, kicks off as new survey data reveals that just under two in five (39%) Black respondents would see their GP if they had a cough for three weeks or more. While one in five (20%) Black individuals surveyed believe that lung cancer only affects smokers.
Almost 2 in 3 (64%) Black survey respondents also believed that or were unsure whether lung cancer only affects a small amount of people every year in England, when in fact it’s the leading cause of cancer deaths in the UK.
As a 49-year-old non-smoker with a healthy lifestyle, Spike was shocked to be diagnosed with lung cancer.
‘There was just something that didn’t feel right to me – I was constantly tired and had an ache across my shoulders – so I went to my GP. It never crossed my mind that it could be lung cancer. I thought that just affected older, white people and smokers’
Diagnosing lung cancer early dramatically increases people’s chances of survival – those diagnosed at stages one or two are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years or more than those whose cancer is caught at later stages. As such, Spike wants to encourage more people to come forward if they have symptoms.
He said: ‘It can be scary to think about cancer, but it’s more frightening to leave it longer than you need to and miss out on vital treatment that could save your life. If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, please get it checked for your own peace of mind.’
As part of the roadshow, specialist teams of volunteers will assist the campaign to educate the public and help catch more cancers early. Thousands of people are expected to see the giant inflatable lungs in communities across the country – including supermarkets, shopping centres and local high streets – with the public urged to get checked if they have signs and symptoms.
The inflatable organs allow visitors to observe and learn about typical lung structures, lung health, and the effects of smoking.
Community engagement teams and volunteers will be on hand to talk to members of the public and encourage those with suspected symptoms to visit their GP as soon as possible.
This comes as survey data also shows that just over 2 in 5 (44%) Black people surveyed would visit their GP if they had a chest infection that kept coming back, and only a little over a third would do the same if they had a loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss (35%), which are lesser-known signs of lung cancer.
Clinical Lead, Dr. Seun Bakare, said: ‘It troubles me that so many people in the Black community aren’t aware of how common lung cancer is. You don’t have to fit a certain profile – it can happen to anyone, unfortunately. Going out and raising awareness through this campaign is vital in making sure that people understand the symptoms – such as a cough that lasts three weeks or more – and reassuring them that the best course of action is to get medical advice. The earlier you come forward, the better your chances.’
Chief Executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Paula Chadwick, said: “It is staggering that so many of those surveyed still do not know how prevalent lung cancer is. We believe this stems from a reluctance, even aversion, to talking about lung cancer, and that is largely because of its links to smoking and associated stigma.
“That’s why these events are so important. They give us the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people who may not realise they are at risk, who may not recognise potential symptoms or could feel unable to act on them.
“If we can help just one person get diagnosed earlier when lung cancer can be treated more easily, then that is worth doing”.
The roadshow will travel around the country throughout the month of November – Lung Cancer Awareness Month – as part of the NHS Help Us, Help You campaign. The roadshow aims to begin conversations about the illness and its symptoms.
The NHS’s Help Us, Help You lung cancer campaign focuses specifically on raising awareness of the key symptom of lung cancer – a cough that lasts for three weeks or more. While it might seem like nothing serious, if it is cancer, finding it early means it’s more treatable and can save lives. The campaign will encourage those who have this symptom to contact their GP practice and remind the public that the NHS wants to see them.
In addition to the symptom of a cough for three weeks or more, other symptoms of lung cancer include:
- chest infections that keep coming back
- coughing up blood
- a long-standing cough that gets worse
- an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- persistent breathlessness
- persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
To find out more please visit nhs.uk/cancersymptoms