A new campaign to raise awareness around the symptoms of lung cancer has launched in Greater Manchester.
The ‘Do It For Yourself’ campaign, launched on Monday by MSD UK in collaboration with leading cancer charities, urges anyone who has had a cough for more than three weeks to contact their GP.
It follows a survey of adults in the region that found 45% put off seeing their GP since the start of the pandemic.
GP Dr Hilary Jones said: “While these symptoms in recent times can be due to COVID-19, this is not always the cause and increasing understanding around this is critical.
“With lung cancer specifically, early diagnosis is incredibly important so it’s essential that people are both aware of and know how to act on key symptoms.”
Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 13% of all cancer cases.
Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.
There are usually no signs or symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, but as the condition develops the main symptoms include: a persistent cough; coughing up blood; persistent breathlessness; unexplained tiredness and weight loss; an ache or pain when breathing or coughing.
Clinicians in some areas have reported a steep decline in lung cancer referrals, increasing the risk of late-stage cancer diagnosis.
Lorraine Creech, Head of Nursing Mesothelioma UK, said: “People may not want to be a burden on the NHS or think that their symptoms will go away, which means they aren’t putting themselves first.
“It’s so important, now more than ever, that we come together to change this perception and encourage people to take action and look after their health.”
Hospitals and GP surgeries have introduced a range of measures to see patients safely, such as initial phone consultations and frequent hand sanitising.
In April 2019 almost 200,000 people in England were referred to a consultant by their GPs for suspected cancer; in April 2020 that figure fell to 79,573.
Research published in the British Medical Journal last month showed that delaying cancer treatment by just four weeks increases the risk of death by up to 10%.
Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said: “It’s important we remember that not every cough is a Covid cough and that local communities and GPs work together to encourage patients to contact them to discuss any health concerns – or we risk undoing much of the progress that has been achieved over the past decade.”
The charities involved in the campaign are Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Mesothelioma UK, Northern Cancer Alliance, Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance and Cancer Research UK.
November was Lung Cancer Awareness month and the campaign will run into December.