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21st November 2018

Catch that Cough Early

Winter inevitably brings coughs and colds, but if you have had a persistent cough for more than three weeks, it’s time to act says Dr Sarah Doffman, consultant lung specialist at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove.

“Lung cancer can be curable if detected early, but two-thirds of people fail to seek medical advice until the disease is advanced. It is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK and usually shows no symptoms in the very early stages, so recognizing possible signs of lung cancer when they do occur is crucial.

Eight out of 10 cases of lung cancer are preventable, with just over 70% caused by smoking. But, around one in eight people with the disease have never smoked so even non-smokers have to be aware of other indicators. One of the most common is a long running cough. In winter, it is difficult to spot the difference as so many coughs, colds and sneezes are doing the rounds, but it isn’t normal for a cough to last for three weeks.

A new diagnosis of lung cancer is made in over 45,000 people every year and the earlier the diagnosis is made, the likely the disease can be cured. New treatments are being developed all the time with more sophisticated chemotherapies, an emergence of targeted therapies and, more recently, immunotherapies.

However, our best weapon in the fight is early detection, and that depends on people reacting to signs such as a persistent cough. You won’t be wasting anyone’s time and it could help save your life.”

Dr Sarah Doffman is a consultant lung specialist at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove.

 For more information, visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or phone 01273 828 148

Seek advice from your GP if:

  • You have had a cough for more than three weeks,
  • Have repeated chest infections
  • Are coughing up blood
  • Are breathlessness
  • or even an ache or pain in your chest or shoulder.

People should also seek medical advice if they start losing weight for no obvious reason or suddenly feel tired and lethargic on a regular basis.

Risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • Smoking. Your risk of lung cancer increaseswith the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and the number of years you have smoked.
  • Family history of lung cancer.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens.

Screening for lung cancer:

The US and Canada have approved national screening programmes for lung cancer using low dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs. The people who are most likely to benefit from screening are those at higher risk for lung cancer, such as people with a long history of smoking.

Lung screening is offered to US adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Early detection by low-dose CT screening, has seen to decrease lung cancer mortality in the US by 14%-20% among those at high-risk.  

In the UK, lung screening is not yet widely available through the NHS, although pilots are underway in some areas. For further information on screening for lung cancer at The Montefiore Hospital, contact 01273 828 148.

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