The NHS in Humber and North Yorkshire is encouraging people with symptoms such as a long-standing persistent cough, to contact their GP practice for potentially lifesaving checks in its latest campaign to catch lung cancer earlier when it is easier to treat.
The launch of the latest Help Us Help You campaign comes after figures suggest that people at risk of lung cancer may not be coming forward for care despite lung cancer being the biggest cause of cancer deaths in England.
While most cancer referrals quickly returned to pre-pandemic levels after the first wave of COVID-19, lung cancer referrals only returned to pre-pandemic levels in May 2022.
Cancer health chiefs are warning the public to contact their GP team if they have had a persistent cough for longer than three weeks or notice other symptoms like coughing up blood or persistent breathlessness.
Lung cancer is one of the most serious type of cancers and last year was the fifth biggest cause of death in England accounting for 26,410 deaths.
Thanks to national awareness campaigns and early diagnosis initiatives, one in every four GP referrals are now for suspected cancer and the NHS is seeing record numbers of people getting checked for cancer. Over 5.3 million people were referred between June 2021 and May 2022, and over 670,000 have started treatment since March 2020.
The latest campaign will target the groups of people most at risk including over 60s, as well as people who are often more reluctant to visit their GP practice, which is critical to getting an early diagnosis.
Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer said: “It is vital that people stay alert against suspected lung cancer symptoms, so if you have a continuous cough or breathlessness, don’t ignore or assume it’s something else, please visit your GP and get it checked out – it probably won’t be cancer but catching it early can help save lives”.
The NHS ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign will run across TV, video-on-demand services such as ITV Hub, radio, and social media over the next few months to spread awareness of lung cancer symptoms.
Cally Palmer, NHS England National Cancer Director said: “We know for a fact most people who get diagnosed with lung cancer early go on to survive so it is imperative that people are aware of the symptoms and come forward as quickly as possible.
“The NHS is here to help and our services are open so people should not hesitate to come forward if they notice potential lung cancer symptoms”.
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The ‘Help Us Help You’ initiative is empowering people to come forward for screening – particularly for lung cancer.
“I want to thank all those that continue to be involved in this life-saving campaign, which aims to increase the number of cancer patients diagnosed at earlier stages from half to three-quarters by 2028.
“If you have any of the key symptoms set out by the NHS, I urge you to see your GP without delay to get checked out – early diagnosis is absolutely vital to beat this disease”.
The NHS is also working with a leading lung cancer charity – the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to run local awareness raising campaigns, as well as working with the foundation to rapidly expand the Targeted Lung Health Check Programme, currently in operation in Hull, which screen people at risk of developing lung cancer.
Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “It is absolutely vital that if you are experiencing symptoms like a persistent cough or shortness of breath that you take action and contact your GP team. Don’t put it off. Don’t presume it’s nothing to worry about. Don’t worry about bothering your doctors. It is always best to check because if it is lung cancer, catching it early can make all the difference.”
Hear from local Hull residents who’ve benefitted from the Targeted Lung Health Check Programme and caught symptoms early enough for effective treatment.
The new lung cancer campaign is the latest drive by the NHS to deliver world-class cancer care and restore cancer services following the pandemic.
Earlier this year NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard announced a revolutionary drug, atezolizumab, for lung cancer patients thanks to an NHS England brokered deal which helps reduce the chance of lung cancer reappearing or death by 34%.
The NHS this year also secured access to durvalumab, which can help double how long somebody can survive an aggressive form of lung cancer, as well as, mobocertinib, which will help hundreds of patients tackle a rare form of lung cancer which can’t be removed by surgery.
Last month (July 2022), the NHS announced a breakthrough treatment for people with respiratory cancer, which is set to benefit around 1,000 patients a year in England.
Back in March an NHS campaign was backed by Boxers, Love Island and Killing Eve stars, to encourage people to come forward to get checked if they have potential cancer symptoms.
The NHS has also awarded £10 million to pioneering new cancer innovations to help improve cancer diagnosis across England.
The NHS Long Term Plan committed to increasing the proportion of cancers caught early, when they are easier to treat, from half to three in four.