Coughs that last more than three weeks could well be the sign of something much more sinister than a common cold and need checking out by your GP, according to experts supporting Lung Cancer Awareness Month which runs throughout November.
“Winter is a difficult time because people think they shouldn’t bother their doctor unless it is ‘something serious’. The problem is, it could be very serious and the only way to find out is to get it checked,” said Dr Shobhit Baijal, an oncologist specialising in lung cancer at Spire Parkway Hospital in Solihull.
While smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, around 1 in 8 people with lung cancer have never smoked so it is important to look out for other tell-tale signs which include:
- Repeated chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling more tired than usual
- Losing weight for no obvious reason
- An ache or pain in your chest or shoulder
“Another problem is that in the very early stages of lung cancer there are not usually any signs or symptoms - which makes it even more important to act upon any ‘indicators’ if they do occur.”
According to statistics released by Cancer Research UK there were more than 45,000 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed in 2013 while in 2014 almost 36,000 people died from the disease.
“It is true that 10-year survival rates for lung cancer are low, at around 5% compared to 78% for breast cancer and 84% for prostate cancer. However, new treatments are being developed all the time with more sophisticated chemotherapies, an emergence of targeted therapies and more recently immunotherapies”, explained Dr Baijal.
“But our best weapon in the fight is early detection, and that depends on people reacting to signs such as a persistent cough. You won’t be wasting anyone’s time and it could help save your life.”