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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 March, 2005, 00:52 GMT
Warning to heed lung cancer signs
Image of a chest x-ray
A chest x-ray can aid diagnosis
People could be dying of lung cancer because they fail to spot and act on early warning signs, a study suggests.

UK researchers who interviewed 22 recently diagnosed lung cancer patients found many had experienced symptoms for months before seeking help.

Yet none realised their tiredness, coughs and breathlessness might be serious or symptoms of lung cancer, the authors told the journal Thorax.

Cancer experts stressed the importance of catching and treating tumours early.

Warning signs

Nearly 38,000 people a year get lung cancer in the UK, of whom 33,000 will die within six months because they have been diagnosed too late, according to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Get these symptoms checked out by a doctor, especially if you are a smoker
Spokesman, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

The typical symptoms, such as breathlessness, weight loss and persistent cough, are common with other, less sinister diseases which means they may go unchecked.

Professor Jessica Corner, of Macmillan Cancer Relief and professor of palliative care at the University of Southampton, said: "There is a clear need for different approaches to public health whereby people at risk are encouraged to be more conscious of their health and to the possibility that they may develop lung cancer.

"This may lead to earlier presentation, faster diagnosis and better outcomes."

A spokesman from the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said: "Early diagnosis of lung cancer is vitally important. Survival rates are poor simply because people are diagnosed too late.

Warning signs
Breathlessness
Lethargy
Weight loss
Persistent cough
Blood-stained phlegm

"People need to be aware of the early symptoms of lung cancer. Some ignore their symptoms or do not think it will happen to them and do not go to their doctor. It's tragic.

"Get these symptoms checked out by a doctor, especially if you are a smoker."

All but one of the patients in the study were current or former smokers.

"You must go to your doctor and ask for a chest x-ray," he said.

He called for a national campaign to raise public awareness.

Dr Siow-Ming Lee of Cancer Research UK cautioned that the study was small and that more research was needed to determine whether earlier detection would save lives.

She said: "Diagnosis of lung cancer, including earlier diagnosis to improve prognosis, can be a very emotional and complex issue.

"Attempts to date using sophisticated spiral CT scan technology and molecular markers in high-risk patients to pick up early lung cancer have so far not improved lung cancer mortality."


SEE ALSO:
Call for lung cancer fast-track
23 Feb 05 |  Health
Cancer treatment 'prolongs life'
01 Dec 04 |  Merseyside


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