Thames Valley Cancer Alliance is asking people to make sure they know the risks of lung cancer and the signs to spot that should not be ignored.

We all know that the current coronavirus pandemic has been destructive beyond measure, to human lives and the health of our population. But – the NHS is not closed, your GP is still here to help you, and it is vitally important that the pandemic does not prevent people seeking medical advice when they need it.

Primary Care Clinical Lead for Thames Valley Cancer Alliance, Dr Anant Sachdev, says; “We can see from our data that fewer people are contacting their GP with concerning symptoms and that a higher percentage of the referrals made for suspected cancer are being diagnosed at a more advanced stage. This means people may be sitting on their symptoms – either because they think they might have Covid-19, or they are afraid to catch it, or maybe they think the symptoms will simply go away.”

Macmillan GP, Dr Karen Sandhu says “One of the harder cancers to differentiate symptoms from Covid-19, is probably lung cancer so it is important to know your cancer risk. For many patients, the sign to look out for is a persistent cough – that is, one that lasts for three weeks or more. But we have also seen descriptions of Covid-19 coughs being long-lasting as well. We would advise that, if you have had a persistent cough for three weeks or more and are worried it might be Covid-19, to book a test via the NHS Test and Trace website or call 119. If that test is negative, but your cough persists – then please speak to your GP as it may well be the sign of something else.”

Dr Sandhu continues; “During this latest lockdown people have been anxious about coming to hospitals but when it comes to cancer, it is a well known and proven fact that the earlier we catch your cancer, the better your chances of surviving will be. We have measures in place to keep you safe and the time you spend in hospital will be kept to a minimum for your tests. However, it really is vital that we find out what is causing your symptoms so we can rule out cancer or get you started on the treatment you need”.

The Thames Valley Cancer Alliance campaign, ‘#KnowYourCancerRisk’ is also about helping people to understand the signs and symptoms of cancer. Lung cancer is not just something you get if you are a smoker, although that will increase your risk; there are other factors that can mean you are more at risk from this disease, such as family history, growing up around smokers and/or working in certain environments where asbestos may have been present, for example.

As well as a persistent cough, other symptoms can also be:

  • coughing up blood
  • sudden weight loss that you cannot explain
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • a loss of appetite

Dr Sachdev had this final message; “Cancer is just as important as Covid; you should not feel like you cannot seek the support you need during this pandemic. It is our wish that people come to see their GP as soon as possible, not waiting to be in severe pain or discomfort and not worrying about coronavirus – to keep you safe and treat your symptoms, we need to establish why you are ill and we can’t do that if you stay away”.

Dr Karn Sandhu recorded a video earlier in the year about lung cancer.