Yorkshire Cancer Research is urging people in the region to look out for symptoms during Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November.
The charity is encouraging people to seek medical advice if they experience any of the following:
- a cough that lasts three weeks or more
- a cough that has got worse or has changed
- frequent chest infections
- chest or shoulder pain
- breathlessness that cannot be attributed to an underlying condition
- feeling more tired than usual
- unexplained weight loss
- loss of appetite
Lung cancer incidence rates in Yorkshire are significantly higher than the national average. More than 4,000 people in the region are diagnosed every year 1.
By seeing a GP at the earliest possible stage, lung cancer patients can significantly increase their chance of survival. More than half of lung cancer patients in Yorkshire are diagnosed when their cancer is very advanced 2, which means treatment options are limited and the chances of survival are low.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “It is so vital that people see their doctor if they notice any unusual symptoms. They will not be wasting anyone’s time. The chances are it won’t be anything serious, but if it is cancer and it is found early then treatment which cures the disease is possible.”
Yorkshire Cancer Research is aiming to improve lung cancer survival rates in the region by funding a number of different projects across the county, particularly in areas that have high incidence and mortality rates.
In Hull, the charity is investing £712,500 in a new community health campaign led by Professor Una Macleod, Dean of the Hull York Medical School.
The campaign, due to start in early 2018, will raise awareness of lung cancer symptoms and encourage smokers and ex-smokers to attend lung health checks. The team will also work with GP practices in the area to make it easier for people to get appointments and referrals for chest x-rays if they experience potential symptoms.
Although non-smokers can develop lung cancer, it is much more common in those who do smoke. More than four in five lung cancers are caused by smoking, and 24.2% of the population in Hull smoke compared to 15.5% in England as a whole 3.
Professor Macleod said: “Our aim is to improve the earlier diagnosis of lung cancer by encouraging people to see their doctor when they notice lung cancer symptoms, and by getting GPs to see and refer them sooner. If fewer people were diagnosed at an advanced stage, many lives could be saved.”
The charity is also investing £5.2m in a lung screening trial which will be carried out in mobile vans within communities in Leeds.
Screening is a different approach from making people aware of symptoms. Instead it tests people for signs of early lung cancer even if they have no symptoms at all. Lung cancers detected by screening are usually much smaller than those detected after symptoms develop, and so the chance of cure can be very high.
The trial, run in partnership with the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and led by Dr Matthew Callister, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, will focus on smokers and ex-smokers aged 55-80 years. An estimated 17.8% of the population in Leeds smoke compared to 15.5% in England as a whole 3.
Around 7,000 people will be screened during the trial, which is expected to start in summer 2018. This could lead to 300 cancers being diagnosed.
Dr Callister said: “Lung cancer screening is not currently available in the UK, and the Yorkshire Lung Screening Trial is hoping to show that screening can be effectively introduced into the UK in a community setting, and to show which people would most benefit from screening. If lung cancer screening was rolled out across Yorkshire, hundreds of lives a year could be saved.”
Dr Scott added: “We know we can make a huge difference to cancer outcomes in Yorkshire by focusing on early detection. We hope that these two approaches – focusing on early investigation of people with symptoms, and screening people without symptoms but who are at high risk of lung cancer, will potentially save thousands of lives in Yorkshire. That’s why Yorkshire Cancer Research is funding these two vital studies in this area. If successful, both approaches could be rolled out across the county and beyond.”
For help and advice on quitting smoking, visit nhs.uk/smokefree.
2. http://www.ncin.org.uk/home Stage data by CCG (2015)
Notes to Editors
- Harrogate-based Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 and is the largest independent regional cancer charity in England (Registered Charity 516898). We are not part of a national charity.
- We are committed to reducing the devastating impact of cancer on the lives of people living in Yorkshire.
- Our mission is to work in partnership, fund research and support initiatives that will help people in Yorkshire avoid, survive and cope with cancer.
- Current statistics show that 575 people are diagnosed with cancer in Yorkshire every week. Incidence and mortality rates are higher than the England average due to social deprivation, post-industrialisation and lifestyle choices but also availability of healthcare services and difficulties accessing early diagnostics, clinical trials and the latest treatments.
- We aim to:
- Be the leading authority on cancer in Yorkshire, understanding the problems and priorities in the region and sharing knowledge with partners.
- Raise awareness of cancer and how to prevent it by working in local communities, schools and colleges, sports clubs and with other health-related organisations.
- Promote screening programmes and fund research that can improve the diagnosis of cancer so we can detect and treat it at the earliest opportunity.
- Invest in innovative research projects at every stage of a cancer patient's journey.
- Campaign for fair and equal access to the very best healthcare services and a greater share of the money spent nationally on research.
- For further information, please visit www.yorkshirecancerresearch.org.uk or follow us on Facebook or Twitter