Date Published: 1 May 2012
A persistent cough may be a sign of lung cancer
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A recent study by Cancer Research UK has identified considerable lack of public awareness about lung cancer.
When almost 1500 people were asked to list possible warning signs of lung cancer (which is the most common cause of cancer death) - only 77 people (5%) mentioned a cough that doesn't go away. Only 2 people mentioned a painful cough and only 3 people listed a change in an existing cough as a possible symptom of lung cancer. Less than 10% of the people who were asked mentioned a persistent chest infection, tiredness or unexplained weight loss. Less than 15% mentioned persistent chest pain. Almost 80% failed to mention coughing up blood and 63% did not list shortness of breath.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of information and an author of the study published in the journal Thorax, said:
" It's very worrying to see from our survey results that when asked to think of lung cancer symptoms many common ones simply don't come to mind for most people. A diagnosis of lung cancer is devastating, but if the disease is caught in its earliest stages treatment can improve survival.
_ We can help improve diagnosis by raising awareness of the signs people should look out for and when to get them checked by a doctor."
When asked to list risk factors for lung cancer, under 13% mentioned exposure to cigarette smoke (passive smoking). Although almost 85% listed "being a smoker" as a risk factor - this suggests that 15% of the British population don't link smoking with lung cancer.
According to the study, people from poorer backgrounds had lower levels of symptom and risk factor awareness. Smokers, who are most at risk of lung cancer, showed no greater awareness of symptoms than non-smokers.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said:
" Given the shockingly low levels of awareness among smokers and non-smokers alike it is even more vital that we do all we can to stop a new generation growing up addicted to tobacco.
_That is why we are urging the government to put tobacco in plain packaging to stop the glossy lure of cigarette packets from seducing youngsters into smoking. Research shows how the tobacco industry relies on the power of the pack to attract brand conscious teenagers to buy their product. It's their only legal form of marketing, and removing this silent salesman will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking."
Reports suggest that approximately 80% of smokers in Britain start smoking by the age of 19.
Reference to Paper:
Simon, A., Juszczyk, D., Smyth, N., Power, E., Hiom, S., Peake, M., & Wardle, J. (2012). Knowledge of lung cancer symptoms and risk factors in the UK: development of a measure and results from a population-based survey Thorax, 67 (5), 426-432 DOI: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2011-200898
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