Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in England. There are some 33,000 new cases every year. It kills more men and women than any other form of cancer.
Lung cancer affects people of all ages but is most common in those who are over 50. Although it is more common in smokers, around one in eight people with lung cancer have never smoked.
The risk of lung cancer increases as you get older, but finding it early improves the chances of successful treatment. So if you have had a cough for three weeks or more, it's worth visiting your doctor to be on the safe side.
Reduce your chances of getting lung cancer
Stop smoking: it's never too late to stop smoking. No matter what age you stop, it reduces your chances of developing lung cancer and makes a real difference to your health in general. There's plenty of help and support available from the NHS. Visit smokefree.nhs.uk or call 0800 169 0169.
Look after yourself: keep active and you'll help keep your lungs healthy. Swim, cycle, go dancing - the more you can do, the better. Even walking to your local shops instead of taking the car can make a difference.
Eat healthily: try to get your 5-A-DAY (more vegetables and fruit) as well as more fish and wholegrain foods. Eat less fatty foods like cakes and pastries and fewer processed meats like bacon and ham. It's also a good idea to reduce your alcohol intake.
Coughing could be a sign of lung cancer
So if you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks you should see your doctor. Of course, in the vast majority of cases it won't be serious. But if there is something wrong, finding it early means it's more likely to be treatable, so tell your doctor.
What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
If you have been coughing for the past three weeks or more, you need to see a doctor straight away.
Some of the other symptoms of lung cancer include:
- A cough that has got worse or changes
- Repeated chest infections
- Coughing up blood
- Feeling more tired than usual for some time
- Losing weight for no obvious reason
- An ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time
How important is it to see my doctor?
If you notice any of the symptoms above, tell your doctor right away. Detecting lung cancer early makes it easier to treat, so seeing your doctor quickly may save your life. It’s probably nothing serious but it could also be a sign of something that needs treatment.
And if you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor.
What should I expect when I see my doctor?
Your doctor will ask you a few questions and may suggest a chest x-ray. This is standard procedure and nothing to worry about. It doesn’t require an overnight hospital stay.
Your doctor might ask you some of these questions:
- How long have you had a cough? Has it changed over time?
- Have you coughed up blood?
- Have you had any chest infections recently?
- Have you been short of breath? For how long? Has it changed over time?
- Have you lost any weight?
- Have you had a pain in your chest or shoulder? Has it changed over time?
It may help to write down your symptoms and how you feel so you don’t forget anything on your visit.