UK experts demand re-instigation of ‘shelved’ lung cancer awareness campaign

Clinicians working in the front-line of UK lung cancer services have today (21 July 2015) written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, demanding clarity on the future of the Be Clear on Cancer lung cancer awareness campaign.1

Despite a nationwide DH funded campaign in 2012 – which resulted in raised public awareness of persistent cough as a key lung cancer symptom, more patients being urgently referred by their GPs, and an increase in the number lung cancers diagnosed2 – the Government has neglected to announce a follow-up.

“We are disappointed that the Department of Health does not appear to be building on the success of its own nationwide lung cancer awareness initiative, and that the campaign seems to have been shelved,” says Mr Richard Steyn, Chair of the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Medical Director, Surgery, at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. 

Despite improvements in services in recent years, wide variations in lung cancer treatment and care continue to persist across the UK and treatment and survival rates lag behind other comparable countries in Europe.3,4 Patients in the UK are diagnosed with more advanced disease than many other countries with around 40% first reaching specialist care via an emergency admission to hospital – resulting in poorer outcomes.5

Earlier in 2015, the UKLCC provided recommendations for the Independent Cancer Taskforce’s just-published Five Year Cancer Strategy.6 It stated that improving awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, by maintaining funding for national awareness programmes, was vital to ensuring early diagnosis and treatment. 

“We are therefore calling on the new Government to re-instigate the campaign immediately – in order to encourage early diagnosis and save British lives,” added Mr Steyn. 

To access a full copy of the open letter, visit:


For further information:

Please contact Lynsey Conway on 07778 304233

Note to editors:

Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer.7 There are over 35,000 deaths every year7 which amounts to a greater death toll than breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer and leukaemia combined.8   It is reported that four people die from lung cancer in the UK every hour.7

In 2012, as part of the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative, the DH funded a campaign to raise public awareness of persistent cough as a lung cancer symptom – targeting those aged 50 or over.  The campaign encouraged those with the symptom to visit their GP.

Compared with the same time the previous year, the campaign, under the Be Clear on Cancer brand, resulted in the following positive outcomes2:-

·         Increase in public awareness of persistent cough as a lung cancer symptom (54% pre-campaign to 65% post campaign)

·         GP presentations for patients aged 50+with a cough increased by 63% during the 8 week campaign compared to the same weeks in 2011 – equivalent to three additional visits per practice per week

·         The number of urgent GP referrals for lung cancer increased by 32% during the campaign period

·         GP-referred chest X-rays (CXRs) increased by 19% in May-July 2012 compared with April 2012 – and GP-referred CT scans increase by 16% over the same period

·         9% increase in lung cancers diagnosed in the campaign period – most notably a 3% increase in the proportion of non-small cell lung cancer cases diagnosed at stage I

·         2% increase in surgical resections during the campaign

The UKLCC was founded in 2005 and is the UK’s largest multi-interest group in lung cancer.  Its membership includes leading lung cancer experts, senior NHS professionals, charities and healthcare companies.  Please visit more information and details of all the UKLCC partners.


1.        Open Letter from the Clinical Advisory Group members of the UK Lung Cancer Coalition: Available at

2.        Ironmonger L et al.  An evaluation of the impact of large- scale interventions to raise public awareness of a lung cancer symptom. British Journal of Cancer. 2015; 112, 207-216

3.        National Lung Cancer Audit Report 2014. Report for the audit period 2013. Accessed  at:

4.        De Angelis R et al. Cancer survival in Europe 1999–2007 by country and age: results of EUROCARE-5 – a population based study..  The Lancet Oncology. 2014; 15 (1): 23-34

5.        Elliss-Brookes L et al.Routes to diagnosis for cancer – determining the patient journey using multiple routine data sets.  Br J Cancer. 2012, 107(8):1220-6

6.        Achieving World Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020; The Independent Cancer Taskforce. 19 July 2015. Accessed at:

7.        Figures from Cancer Research UK, accessed at:

8.        Figures from Cancer Research UK accessed at:


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