Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Northern Ireland, but early detection can improve the outcome for someone with the condition.
With increasing numbers of people developing lung cancer, today the Public Health Agency (PHA) is launching the next phase of its ‘Be Cancer Aware’ campaign, which will focus specifically on this type of cancer.
This phase of the campaign aims to raise awareness of signs and symptoms of lung cancer and encourage people to speak to their GP if they experience any of them.
Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, said: “There were over 1,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland in 2013. The illness is more common in people over 50 and in smokers, but around one in eight people with lung cancer has never smoked.
“If lung cancer is diagnosed early, two in five patients will survive five years or more. However, when the diagnosis is made later on, only one in 50 will live this long. That is why it is vital to seek medical advice if you experience any symptoms which could indicate that you may have the condition.
“We know from recent research that almost half of us (49%) would be put off going to the doctor if we had a symptom because we may worry about what the doctor might find. However, the earlier cancer is diagnosed, the easier it can be to treat, so the ‘Be Cancer Aware’ lung campaign highlights how important it is to know what to look out for and to get yourself checked if you notice anything which could point towards lung cancer.”
Some of the common signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
- persistent cough (more than three weeks);
- coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm (sputum);
- chest and/or shoulder pains;
- tiredness and loss of energy;
- weight loss (for no obvious reason);
- shortness of breath or wheezing;
- hoarse voice;
- a change in shape at the end of your fingers (clubbing).
Cancer can strike at any age, but almost 9 out of 10 cancers are diagnosed in people over 50, so that group in particular needs to be aware of how important it is to recognise any changes to their body and speak to their doctor if something isn’t right.
Marlene Murtagh, a non-smoker from Belfast, was diagnosed with lung cancer in December 2014. Early detection and diagnosis resulted in Marlene receiving the appropriate treatment and she is now on the road to recovery. Her advice is to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
“Cancer is not something that any of us wants to think about. However, if you have symptoms that could point to lung cancer, talk to a doctor and don’t delay. The earlier that lung cancer is diagnosed, the more that can be done, so my advice would be to forget about your fears or embarrassment – get your symptoms checked.
“I had a cough and luckily got it checked out early, and despite being a non-smoker I had developed lung cancer. But my experience has shown that if lung cancer is detected early it can be treated with a successful outcome, and remember, you don’t have to be a smoker to get lung cancer.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer is vital to get more people who develop the condition to go to their GPs early and get diagnosed. Detecting lung cancer early can have a big impact on treatment and survival.
“I urge anyone who has any signs or symptoms that could indicate the presence of lung cancer to speak to their GP without delay, as it could make all the difference.”
The launch today of the lung cancer phase of the PHA’s ‘Be Cancer Aware’ campaign will coincide with the All Ireland Cancer Consortium Conference which is taking place in Belfast.
To support the campaign, the PHA has developed a comprehensive new website at www.becancerawareni.info. The website provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.