PHE campaign urges people to see a GP if they have breathlessness or a persistent cough, as these are symptoms of these diseases.
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.
Getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, or having a cough that has lasted for 3 weeks or more, could be a sign of lung disease, including lung cancer. Breathlessness can 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. The survey found that:
• 86% would urge friends and family with these symptoms to see their GP
• only 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 can 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.
The campaign reassures people that they would not be wasting their GP’s time by getting their symptoms checked out – something a third of adults surveyed said they would be worried about.
Julia Verne, Clinical Lead for PHE, commented:
"Breathlessness and a persistent cough are symptoms that can be easily ignored or put down to getting older, or seen as just minor health niggles. But these symptoms can be warning signs and it is really important to get them checked out by a doctor.
"People are more likely to urge others to seek medical help for these symptoms than to speak to a GP themselves. If anyone has concerns, we would encourage them to seek medical advice, as getting help early rather than waiting until the problem gets worse is vital.
"diagnosis saves lives and can improve quality of life for people with long term conditions, so if you find yourself getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, or if you have a cough that has lasted for 3 weeks or more, get it checked out."