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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 02:02 GMT
Lung cancer threat 'overlooked'
Lung x-ray
Early stage lung cancer is more easily treated
Many people are unaware that lung cancer is such a deadly disease, research suggests.

A survey by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation found 50% of people are unaware the disease kills more people in the UK than any other cancer.

The survey also found three-quarters of respondents think breast cancer is the leading cause of UK cancer deaths.

The foundation is calling on the government to back its attempts to raise awareness of the disease.

Lung cancer symptoms
Chest infections, which won't go away
Blurred vision
Feeling more tired than usual
Coughing up blood
Skin rash
Feeling very out of breath
Losing weight, but not sure why
Swelling of the face and neck
Persistent cough
It says the survey findings demonstrate that lung cancer, although a devastating disease, remains the poor relation of other cancers.

And it says that better public awareness would help to save lives by ensuring people seek medical care at an early stage. The disease can be difficult to treat once it has reached an advanced stage.

The survey found the majority of people massively under-estimated lung cancer survival rates.

Some 69% of people surveyed did not appreciate that only 20% of lung cancer patients would be alive one year after diagnosis

Dr Jesme Baird, a medical oncologist and the Foundation's director of patient care, said: "We now call on the Department of Health to take a lead role in raising the general public's awareness of the gravity of this disease.

"With earlier diagnosis, lung cancer can be successfully treated. But unless more people realise the importance of seeing their GP as soon as they experience any symptoms, we will never make the in-roads into curing lung cancer patients that we truly could.

"We must give people the knowledge and information they need to seek treatment at the earliest possible stage and this simply cannot be achieved without major government backing."

There are 40,000 new lung cancer patients in the UK each year. The average time from diagnosis to death is just six months.

Government response

A Department of Health spokesperson said it was committed to working with charities to raise awareness of lung cancer.

"We have made significant progress towards the objectives set out in the NHS Cancer Plan to reorganise, standardise and rejuvenate cancer services so that we compare with the best in Europe.

"Already over 99% of patients with suspected lung cancer are now seen by a specialist within two weeks of being urgently referred by their GP and since the 1970s Britain's men have had the world's sharpest fall in premature deaths from lung cancer."

The spokesperson added that smoking was the most common cause of cancer and accounts for one-third of all deaths.

She said 512,000 people had successfully quit smoking using NHS stop smoking services since April 2000.

"The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is also supporting clinicians by issuing guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer - expected to be published early next year."

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