NHS England and NHS Improvement, together with Public Health England, are launching the ‘Help Us, Help You’ lung cancer campaign to encourage people with a cough lasting three weeks or more and who don’t have COVID-19, to contact their GP practice.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some members of the public are reluctant to use NHS services, citing concerns about being exposed to the virus and not wanting to be a burden on the NHS. In addition, there is a lack of awareness that a cough for three weeks or more on its own can be a sign of lung cancer, and a need to remind the audience to act on a persistent cough and not wait to see if it resolves. While a cough for three weeks or more is probably nothing serious, it could be a sign of something that needs treatment. If it is cancer, finding it early makes it more treatable1 and can save lives.
The ‘Help Us, Help You’ lung cancer campaign has released a powerful video, featuring Sir Andrew Strauss, Gaby Roslin and members of the public who have first-hand experience of how lung cancer can affect you, your friends and your family. The video urges people to contact their GP practice if they’ve had a cough for three weeks or more and don’t have COVID-19. It also encourages friends and family to support a loved one if they are concerned for their health.
- If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, and it isn’t COVID-19, it could still be a warning sign
- A cough for three weeks or more could be a sign of cancer. Just contact your GP practice
- It’s probably nothing serious, but finding cancer early makes it more treatable
- Your NHS is here to see you, safely
- If a friend or family member has been coughing for three weeks or more, and it isn’t COVID-19, encourage them to contact their GP practice
- In addition to the symptom of a cough for three weeks or more, other symptoms of lung cancer include(1):
- Chest infections that keep coming back
- Coughing up blood
- A long-standing cough that gets worse
- An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- Persistent breathlessness
- Persistent tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
- Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer can save lives
(1) NHS. (2019). Lung Cancer. Available: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lung-cancer/symptoms/. Last accessed January 2021.
- Get tested for COVID-19 if you have a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- NHS staff are working to ensure that, wherever possible, cancer treatment can continue safely. This includes re-establishing COVID-secure cancer hubs and consolidating cancer surgery, prioritising people for surgery centrally based on clinical need and drawing on the independent sector to increase capacity. Between March and December 2020, nearly 1.7 million people were urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer and over 228,000 people started treatment for cancer – 95% within 31 days. Thanks to the efforts of NHS staff and partners, cancer treatments were maintained at 89% across this period (90% radiotherapy, 89% chemotherapy, 86% surgery).(2)
- In the lead up to Christmas, urgent referrals and treatments were at or above the level they were in the same period in 2019. That means we entered the most recent period of pressure in a strong position
- Lung cancer GP referrals remain lower than normal and have been the slowest by far out of all cancer types to recover since the start of the pandemic. As of December 2020, lung cancer referrals had reached 73% of pre-COVID levels, while referrals for all cancers were just over 100%. This suggests that there are people who may have worrying symptoms who are still not contacting their GP
- Cancer services remain an absolute priority for the NHS. Thanks to the efforts of NHS staff, cancer services have been maintained throughout the pandemic so treatment can continue safely. Any decision to reschedule cancer treatment will be a last resort
(2)] NHS England (2020) Cancer Waiting Times. Available: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/cancer-waiting-times/. Last accessed: January 2021.
Your NHS is here to see you, safely. Help Us, Help You.
Visit http://nhs.uk/cancersymptoms for more information.