How to spot when your cough could be an early warning sign of the UK’s deadliest cancer


IT’S quite normal to have a cough now and again, and usually it’s not anything to be concerned about.

However, experts believe many Brits may be ignoring symptoms that could be a tell tale sign of lung cancer – one of the UK’s most deadly cancers.


Lung cancer was the fifth biggest cause of death in England in 2021Credit: Getty – Contributor

In 2021, lung cancer was the fifth biggest cause of death in England, with 26,410 deaths.

Now a new campaign is hoping to get more people checked for lung cancer sooner, with the NHS calling for people with symptoms such as a long-standing persistent cough, to visit their GP.

The Help Us To Help You campaign is aiming to reach people who are at particular risk of ignoring symptoms, including the over-60s and those from more-working class backgrounds who can be more reluctant to contact their doctor.

Early diagnosis is key for any type cancer and the sooner it’s spotted, the faster treatment can begin, health chiefs have explained.

It’s especially vital when it comes to lung cancer, which can be hard to spot in the early stages.

You might put a persistent cough down to just having a cold, or might assume it could be Covid – a new, continuous cough is a key symptom of coronavirus – but experts warn you shouldn’t ignore it.

If you’ve been coughing for two to three weeks, or are suffering from breathlessness, contact your GP.

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.”

Lung cancer is treatable, if caught early, and last month, the NHS announced a breakthrough treatment for people with respiratory cancer, which is set to benefit around 1,000 patients a year in England.

Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK Insurance said that anyone can get lung cancer, and that it’s a myth that it’s only people who smoke.

Lung cancer: Need to know

A lingering cough, tiredness and losing your appetite could be a virus or common cold, it could also be a sign of lung cancer.

Other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Having a cough most of the time
  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time
  • Being short of breath
  • Coughing up phlegm which has signs of blood
  • Aches or pain in the chest or shoulder
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

He said: “Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer, causing around nine in every ten cases, although you can still develop it if you’re a non-smoker.

“Your risk of lung cancer is related to how much you smoke, how long you’ve been smoking and when you started smoking.

“It also depends on which type of cigarettes you smoke.

“You’re at a higher risk of developing lung cancer if you regularly breathe in other people’s tobacco smoke (passive smoking), so it’s best to keep the environment around you smoke free.”


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