Don’t ignore a persistent cough

Today sees the launch of the next phase of Public Health England’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign which aims to make people aware of the symptoms of lung cancer and encourage them to visit their GP if they have had a cough for three weeks or more. The UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) is highly supportive of this awareness initiative and we have been working with key stakeholders over the last eight years to encourage national campaigns such as this in order to help achieve our vision of doubling lung cancer survival.   

Almost 24,000 people a year in England receive a lung cancer diagnosis when the disease is at a late stage – only around 15 per cent of cases are diagnosed at the earliest stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

Lung cancer is currently England’s biggest cancer killer, causing around 28,000 deaths each year and with around 33,800 people diagnosed. Those diagnosed at the earliest stage are five times more likely to survive lung cancer for at least five years than those diagnosed at a late stage.

One of the reasons behind England’s low early diagnosis rate is the public’s lack of awareness about the disease and its symptoms. New data shows:

  • almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of people are unaware that lung cancer is England’s biggest cancer killer
  • despite the fact that lung cancer is most common in people aged over 50, one in four people (26 per cent) think that all age groups are equally at risk of lung cancer
  • 40 per cent of people are unaware that a cough that has lasted three weeks or more is a potential symptom of lung cancer.

These figures show that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the signs of lung cancer and ultimately save more lives.

Despite improvements in lung cancer services in recent years, the UKLCC is acutely aware that wide variations in lung cancer treatment and care continue to persist across England and the UK and survival rates lag behind other comparable countries in Europe.  To note, patients in the UK are diagnosed with more advanced disease than many other countries and almost 40% first reach specialist care via an emergency admission to hospital.,

The UKLCC’S vision is to double lung cancer survival during the next eight to ten years, with the co-operation of health professionals, policy makers, local primary care organisations, NHS and Government.   By applying the best standards already being demonstrated in the best cancer centres in Europe, we could save 3,500 lives each year

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will see adverts – featuring real GPs – on TV, print and radio from today until mid-August. Face-to-face events will also take place in a number of shopping centres.  To find out more about the campaign, visit

Mr Richard Steyn

Chair, UKLCC
Consultant Thoracic Surgeon, Associate Medical Director – Surgery, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
Honorary Associate Professor, University of Warwick