Nick’s lung cancer story

Nick was seeing his doctor for 18-24 months with a persistent cough and back pain but it wasn’t until he coughed up blood two years later that he was sent for an x-ray. Fortunately, Nick was still diagnosed early enough for curative-intent treatment but shares his story to help raise awareness and highlight the missed opportunities so others might be referred more quickly.

“I was seeing my doctor for about 18 – 24 months with several different symptoms and niggling little issues, but throughout that time, I constantly mentioned a cough that I had. I was actually told on several occasions that I didn’t nee to worry about that because it was just ‘a smoker’s cough’.

I’d had it for at least two years, or two years where it was getting worse. But, because I had been told it’s was only a smoker’s cough, I wasn’t particularly worried about it or see it as a major issue.

However, whilst I was working away, I coughed up some blood. That’s when I did start to worry. I went to A&E and this was the start of my diagnosis. I ended up being diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer. Initially, I was given 50% chance of surviving for five years. However, I’ve since gone on to have surgery to remove the tumour and follow up chemotherapy and I am now cancer-free. But it could have been a very different story.

Looking back on my diagnosis, I can see that there were many missed opportunities to be diagnosed earlier, I think one of the reasons I wasn’t sent for an x-ray earlier was because of how fit I was. I’m grateful I was fit because I think that helped me to survive what I went through. But, on the flip side, I think it could have also delayed the diagnosis as I didn’t have any other associated symptoms. As a scuba diver, my lung capacity is good, so I wasn’t having any shortness of breath. I wasn’t tired and I wasn’t losing weight and this is why it was just put down to just a smoker’s cough.

I don’t lay any blame. I accept that a general practitioner is just that and they can’t be expected to know every symptom for every illness. But I do wish I had been referred sooner than I was and I just hope that campaigns like Spot the Difference can educate GPs and help them see a little bit earlier that it’s time to start referring this person to somebody more specialised, or at least to get an x-ray of that person.”