Celebrities Join Forces with NHS and Public Health England to Encourage Lung Cancer Checks

24 February 2021 3:03pm

Issued by NHSE/I

People in the West Midlands are being urged to get checked if they test negative for COVID-19 but have a persistent cough.

Sir Andrew Strauss, the ex-England cricket captain who lost his wife to lung cancer, has backed the NHS and Public Health England Help Us Help You campaign to encourage lung cancer checks.

Television presenter Gaby Roslin, who lost her mother to lung cancer, has joined Sir Andrew and others whose lives have been changed by the disease in a film warning not to leave it too late to get a check.

Finding lung cancer early, like other cancers, makes it more treatable. However, research commissioned by the NHS found that nearly half (48%) of people in the West Midlands do not know that a persistent cough for more than three weeks can be a lung cancer symptom.

And two thirds (66%) of people in the West Midlands would not make an appointment with their GP if they had a cough lasting three weeks or more and had tested negative for coronavirus.

The findings have been released as NHS England and Public Health England launch a major new drive encouraging people to get checked by a GP if they have lung cancer symptoms.

In the poignant short film Sir Andrew, whose wife Ruth died aged 46, stressed that anyone coughing for three weeks or more should get checked. Please click here for the film.

Sir Andrew Strauss, Ex-England Cricket Captain and Founder of the Ruth Strauss Foundation, said: “This is a campaign very close to my heart after losing my wife, Ruth, to lung cancer in 2018. Lung cancer is a risk for everyone – Ruth had never smoked a cigarette in her life and was unbelievably fit and healthy. It’s so important that if you notice any loved ones showing symptoms that could be a sign of cancer that you encourage them to contact their GP practice.”

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in England with around 4,115 people in the West Midlands being diagnosed each year. Those whose cancer is caught at the earliest point, referred to as stage one, have a 57.7% chance of living for another five years, compared to 3.1% for those diagnosed at stage four.

Television, radio and podcast presenter, Gaby Roslin said: “I remember sitting there on the phone to the doctor and she said, ‘I’m afraid it is lung cancer’. Looking back on it my mum never told us how she was feeling, she was always making sure that we were all ok and making sure that my Dad was ok. If you catch it early, it can make the biggest difference.”

The NHS Long Term Plan aims to increase the number of cancer patients diagnosed early, at stage one or two, from half to three quarters.

The health service has seen more people come forward for cancer checks since the first peak of the pandemic, but lung cancer referrals are at 73% of the same point last year.

The research found the main reasons people gave for not contacting their GP practice were wanting to wait and see if the cough would go away by itself (24%) and being worried about burdening the NHS (23%).

More than three-quarters (78%) said they would encourage their loved ones to make an appointment with their GP if they kept coughing but knew they did not have COVID-19. The Help Us Help You campaign includes a series of TV adverts encouraging anyone with an ongoing cough to not delay contacting their GP.

Dr Nigel Sturrock, Medical Director at NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, said: “Recognising the symptoms of lung cancer can be difficult. In the first instance, if you have a new, continuous cough it’s really important to get tested for COVID-19. If it isn’t COVID-19, it could be a warning sign for cancer so you should contact your GP – we are ready to see you safely.

“It is understandable that people haven’t wanted to trouble the health service during the pandemic or have been worried about attending appointments because of the COVID risk. However, the risk of a cancer that you don’t pay attention to is much greater than the risk of coronavirus. GP practices have introduced a series of measures to make them COVID-safe. The NHS is open and ready to see anyone with a concerning symptom – it could save your life.”

NHS England has also introduced a series of innovations in cancer care during the pandemic, including COVID-19-secure surgery hubs that were set up across the country and £160 million invested in ‘COVID-19-friendly’ cancer drugs, that treat patients without having such a big impact on their immune system or offer other benefits such as fewer hospital visits.

For more information about Lung Cancer visit the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-cancer/