To mark World Lung Cancer Day, the NHS have launched an awareness campaign encouraging people to visit their GP for potentially lifesaving checks if they have long-standing symptoms of lung cancer.
The launch comes after figures indicated that people at risk of lung cancer, which is England’s deadliest cancer, are not coming forward for care.
Only a few months ago, in May, did cancer referrals for lung cancer return to pre-pandemic levels, with most other cancer referrals reverting back to normal after the first wave of Covid-19.
And now, the public are being urged to go to their GP if they have had a cough for more than three weeks or are experiencing symptoms like coughing up blood or persistent breathlessness.
Approximately 40,000 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed every year, with the disease accounting for 26,410 deaths last year – England’s fifth biggest killer.
Despite this however, thanks to national awareness campaigns like this one and early diagnosis initiatives, one in four GP referrals are now suspected to be cancer, with the NHS seeing record numbers of people getting checked for cancer over the last year, with more than 5.3 million people referred between June 2021 and May 2022, as well as over 670,000 people starting treatment since March 2020.
Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “We are going further and faster in our efforts to tackle cancer and have seen record numbers of people coming forward for tests and checks in the last year thanks to our campaigns and early diagnosis initiatives, but for lung cancer, we have not seen referrals bounce back at the same rate as other cancers.
“It is vital that people stay alert against suspected lung cancer symptoms, so if you have a continuous cough or breathlessness, don’t ignore or assume it’s something else, please visit your GP and get it checked out – it probably won’t be cancer but catching it early can help save lives.”
This latest ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign will run across the TV, video-on-demand services, and social media and will target the groups most at risk of lung cancer, which includes the over 60s as well as people from more traditionally working-class backgrounds, who tend to be more reluctant to visit their GP, which is crucial to getting an early diagnosis.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We know that the earlier you catch cancer, the better the chances of survival, and the ‘Help Us Help You’ initiative is empowering people to come forward for screening – particularly for lung cancer, which is the biggest cause of death by cancer in England.
“I want to thank all those that continue to be involved in this life-saving campaign, which aims to increase the number of cancer patients diagnosed at earlier stages from half to three-quarters by 2028.
“If you have any of the key symptoms set out by the NHS, I urge you to see your GP without delay to get checked out – early diagnosis is absolutely vital to beat this disease.”
This is just the latest initiative the NHS have rolled out in their bid to combat cancer. Just last month the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved a breakthrough mesothelioma treatment benefitting hundreds of NHS patients. They are also moving forward with a revolutionary drone project where chemotherapy is flown around the country, saving time, money and fuel.
More information on how the NHS are maintaining their world-leading cancer care status and this campaign in general is available here.