18th September 2020

Lung cancer is Still Here: Don’t put off the cough

View all Early detection

There’s no doubt that the year of 2020 has altered our view of the cough. In a world dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, if we now hear a cough, our thoughts quickly turn to COVID-19. However, it is important to remember that a persistent cough always has been and always will be, one of the main symptoms of lung cancer.

A cough, a symptom most commonly regarded

Is now even more quickly dismissed and discarded.

Watch the STILL HERE poem

Unfortunately, not enough people are aware that a lasting cough is a symptom of lung cancer. In 2017, the Global Lung Cancer Coalition conducted a survey where participants were asked to name lung cancer symptoms and globally, 41% of people were unable to name a single lung cancer symptom.

It is important to note a new, continuous cough is one of the primary symptoms of coronavirus. If you develop a new, continuous cough, you must self-isolate and arrange a coronavirus test. If the test comes back positive, you must self-isolate for 14 days. If the test comes back negative and your cough persists or worsens, or you develop further symptoms, you should then contact your doctor.

There are many reasons why you may have a cough and the majority of people who do will not have lung cancer. However, it is so important that you contact your GP if you have a cough for three weeks or more, or if you have a cough that gets worse or changes over time. It is also important that you continue to go back to your doctor if the cough remains. This is something, sadly, Anne knows all too well.

Anne had a cough for three to four years. She was diagnosed as asthmatic, but the cough remained. Eventually, after several trips to the doctor, she just accepted her cough. Then, one night she suffered severe chest pains and ended up in A&E where she was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer.

Looking back, I wish I had been more insistent about my cough, insistent that it wasn’t asthma. I should have kept going back to the GP instead of just accepting the cough in the end

Read Anne’s story here

Anne has shared her experiences as part of the STILL HERE campaign, a lung cancer awareness campaign by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation which is in response to the devastating impact the pandemic has had on cancer referral rates. She hopes her story can stop someone else having a similar experience and encourage those with symptoms to go to their doctor as much as they need to and feel comfortable asking for an x-ray or CT scan.

Some people feel as though they are bothering their GP for contacting them about a cough – particularly in the current climate. But rest assured, that a GP always wants to see you if you are unwell – even if you live in an area which is under local lockdown – and a persistent cough counts as being unwell.

Bill Simpson was one of those people. He had a cough but, in his own words, ‘wouldn’t have bothered my doctor with something like that’. Fortunately, Bill was invited to a lung health check in Nottingham, a programme funded by the charity, to improve the early detection of lung cancer.

That cough, which Bill wouldn’t have gone to the doctor about, turned out to be early stage lung cancer. Bill has since gone on to have surgery and is now cancer-free.

Take action

Bill was lucky; the lung health check invitation came at exactly the right time. If it hadn’t, it could have been a different story. But if you have a cough, you can’t rely on similar luck; you have to take action and contact your GP.

The sooner lung cancer is diagnosed, and you get on treatment – be it surgery, chemo, radiotherapy or one of the newer targeted or immunotherapies, the better your prognosis.

Lung cancer is a disease which can affect anyone. You do not need to have smoked to get lung cancer. If you do smoke however, the best way to reduce your risk is the stop.

Things are difficult at the moment and the pandemic continues to make the future somewhat uncertain. One thing that is clear though, if you have a persistent cough, you need to contact your GP and share your concerns.

Make a note of all your symptoms and how frequently you are experiencing them with the help of our symptoms tracker before you speak to the GP. That way, you can give them a clear picture and help then decide the best course of action.

There is nothing more important than your health, so if you have a cough than won’t go away, or any other potential lung cancer symptoms, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.

Know all the symptoms

There are many different symptoms of lung cancer. Some people have one, others have more. Some even have none.

As well as a persistent or cough that changes or worsen, other signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Repeat chest infections
  • Chest and/or shoulder pain
  • Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood or blood in your phlegm
  • Unexplained fatigue or lack of energy
  • Hoarseness
  • Finger clubbing
  • Swelling in the face or neck.

Lung cancer was not cancelled because of coronavirus. Don’t let the pandemic stop you or your loved one from being diagnosed. If you are experiencing any symptoms, including a persistent cough, contact your doctor.