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‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign highlights red flag symptoms

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Public Health England (PHE) has launched a national ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ awareness campaign which prompts people with symptoms of some of the leading causes of death in England to see their doctor.

Lung cancer, heart disease and lung disease cause more than 150,000 deaths in England each year. Early diagnosis can save lives and improve the quality of life of those living with conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a common form of lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

The campaign says that getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, or having a cough that has lasted for three weeks or more, could be a sign of lung disease, including lung cancer. Breathlessness could also be a sign of heart disease. As well as prompting anyone with these symptoms to see their GP, the campaign also calls on people to look out for each other and encourage friends and family to act.

This call comes as a new survey found that adults over 50 are more likely to encourage others to see the doctor than go themselves:2

• 86% would urge friends and family with these symptoms to see their GP
• 67% would contact the GP themselves if they experienced symptoms

The campaign is aimed at men and women aged 50 and above who are most at risk of lung cancer, COPD and heart disease.

In England there are around 1.8 million people who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease (CHD), the main type of heart disease and 1 million people diagnosed with COPD. Around 37,600 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.

Early diagnosis and treatment could make a big difference to the quality of life and help people live longer, however late diagnosis is common. The survey found a third (32%) of people would wait for a month or longer before visiting the GP if they experienced breathlessness doing everyday things and over half (55%) would wait over a month before speaking to their GP if they had a persistent cough.

Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation explains that shrugging off persistent symptoms, such as a cough that won’t go away, could have devastating consequences. “Anyone with a cough for three weeks or more should go and see their GP to get it checked. You have nothing to lose by making the appointment and it could ultimately save your life.”

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