The Government’s national lung cancer awareness campaign relaunches today having showed increases in urgent referrals and diagnosis rates in previous years.
Public Health England (PHE) has relaunched the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign based on results from regional pilots and last year’s national campaign, which showed the number of lung cancer cases diagnosed in 2011 was up 14% on 2010 figures compared with a 4.7% in areas outside the pilot area, while diagnoses were being made at an earlier stage.
The results – released in March – also showed an approximate 30% increase in two-week wait referrals for suspected lung cancer compared with the year before, with the biggest increase of 46% seen in July, a month after the campaign ended.
GPs previously expressed concern that the campaign – which focuses on highlighting a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks – would lead to practices being inundated with the ‘worried well’ concerned about a long-lasting seasonal cough.
Public Health England’s results contradicted an earlier Department of Health report, which found the pilots had had no impact on the number of cancers diagnosed.
A recent survey, conducted last month on behalf of PHE, highlighted an ongoing lack of awareness about lung cancer amongst the general public, with 40% of people unaware that a cough that has lasted three weeks or more is a potential symptom of lung cancer.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: ‘These figures show that more needs to be done to raise awareness levels of a persistent cough as a symptom of lung cancer are still low.
‘The results from the previous campaign are really encouraging, but awareness levels of a persistent cough as a symptom of lung cancer are still low. Only by increasing awareness of potential symptoms, and encouraging people to visit their doctor sooner rather than later, will we see the number of early diagnoses, and people surviving the disease, start to rise.’
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘More people die from lung cancer than any other cancer in England, but many people don’t know the signs and symptoms that could save their lives. The message from this campaign is clear – if you have persistent cough, go and see your doctor. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment will be successful.’