Persistent cough

A persistent cough is perhaps the most recognised symptom of lung cancer. However, since the pandemic, a cough is now more readily associated with Covid-19.

If you have had a cough for three weeks or more, or you have a cough that has changed or got worse and you have had a negative Covid test, you must contact your GP surgery.

People often expect a lung cancer cough to be quite a severe cough, but there isn’t any particular type of cough which is more linked to lung cancer. People can have very chesty coughs, or they can have very subtle tickly coughs, like a constant clearing of your throat. A cough that is caused by lung cancer can be both wet and dry. It is more about the length of time you have the cough, rather than the type of cough you have.

A cough can be caused by many things and most of the time it will go away on its own. However, you need to contact your GP practice if you:

  • Have a cough for three weeks or more
  • Spot your cough has changed, or it has got worse
  • Are experiencing chest pains
  • Have lost weight (and are not trying to)
  • Have swollen glands in your neck
  • Are having difficulty breathing
  • Feel very unwell.

Joe spotted the difference

Having a cough was not unusual for Joe; as a child he had suffered with his chest. However, there was something about this cough that was different. It wasn’t shifting in the way others had, even with antibiotics and it was making him extremely lethargic, so Joe went back to the doctor and got a second opinion.

Spot the difference in your health

We all get a cough so how do we know when to pay particular attention to one? It can be difficult to spot the difference with coughs, so we have created a symptoms tracker where you can keep a note of:

  • When you first developed a cough
  • How often you are coughing
  • Any other potential symptoms.

You can then take this along to your doctor’s appointment to give them the fuller picture of your symptoms.

Under the guidelines of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), your GP should offer you an urgent chest x-ray if you are:

  • over 40
  • two or more symptoms including breathlessness, or
  • one symptom and have ever smoked.

Symptoms for urgent chest x-ray include:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss.

If you are not offered a chest x-ray and you meet this criteria, or if you are really worried about your symptoms, don’t be afraid to ask for an x-ray, or for a second opinion.