1st November 2023

Lung cancer charity challenges outdated misconceptions with new campaign

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The UK’s leading lung cancer charity is calling out common misunderstandings around the disease in its new campaign for lung cancer awareness month.

Lung cancer stands as the most lethal types of cancer in the UK, but the battle against it is not solely medical—it’s also informational. Myths, stereotypes, and misconceptions about the disease persist, creating barriers to early diagnosis and effective treatment.

The Be Unforgettable campaign looks to confront three of the most common disease misconceptions – nihilistic perceptions, patient stereotyping and symptom confusion – all of which can delay diagnosis and deny people the opportunity to be successfully treated.

With the tagline, Forget everything you think you know about lung cancer this campaign aims to rewrite the public narrative surrounding the disease, providing a more positive and optimistic outlook that encourages immediate action.

Lung cancer is not an instant death sentence

Bill Culbard is one of several people sharing their experiences of lung cancer to contradict the fallacies shrouding lung cancer. Celebrating 23 years cancer free, Bill proves lung cancer can be treated and cured.

“I feared the worst when I first started coughing. My father had died of lung cancer, and I was well aware that those years of smoking weren’t good for me! But as frightened as I was, I knew I had to do something.

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer and told it was inoperable. Instead, I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy which did the job! After two years of follow up scans, my consultant discharged me, and I have been cancer free ever since.”

After facing his fear, Bill’s diagnosis and treatment was pretty textbook. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many others, and especially those who don’t fit the expected profile of a lung cancer patient. People like Spike Elliott.

If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer

At 47 years old, a non-smoker and someone who runs 5ks for fun, Spike contradicts every lung cancer stereotype. So, when Spike started suffering from frequent chest infections in 2017, lung cancer wasn’t a consideration.

And herein lies the problem– why is lung cancer not considered as a potential cause even when the signs are pointing to it?

Spike was treated with eight weeks of antibiotics. He also had a chest x-ray, which came back all clear. Fast forward to the second half of 2018 and Spike was experiencing a constant tiredness. Then, following a routine daily gym and swim session, he felt a sensitive ache in the back of his right shoulder blade and down his arm.

After several trips to the doctor, Spike was sent for a scan and on Christmas Eve 2018, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

“I wanted to share my experience just to demonstrate that lung cancer really can happen to anyone even those young, super fit and a never smoker,” explains Spike.

“There remains this stubborn stereotype of who gets lung cancer and it’s very dangerous. For me, this is why so many people who don’t fit the so-called ‘profile’ face delays to their diagnosis and why they are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage disease and are less likely to be cured. Their lives are being cut short because of these outdated beliefs.”

Dangerous misconceptions are cutting lives short

Paula Chadwick is the chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. She said, “In Bill and Spike, we have two strikingly different experiences of lung cancer.

“The Be Unforgettable campaign aims to help people emulate Bill’s experience so when someone is experiencing potential symptoms, they are thoroughly investigated – regardless of their age, lifestyle or smoking history.

Sadly, too many people are missing out on an earlier diagnosis, and we believe this derives from misunderstanding and lack of awareness.

“Lung cancer is so intrinsically linked to smoking than it shrouds the other causes and risk factors so that even when symptoms are pointing to lung cancer, it’s not considered early enough.

“So, forget everything you think you know about lung cancer and let’s see more people living through lung cancer than dying of it.”

The Be Unforgettable campaign launches on Wednesday 1st November, with activity including a social media campaign, lung cancer roadshow, radio day and parliamentary event.

For more information, visit roycastle.org/be-unforgettable