November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and staff at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals are urging local people not to delay contacting their GP about any lung cancer symptoms.
The NHS is committed to providing essential cancer services during the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of the outbreak, there was a sharp drop in the number of patients referred for investigations and appointments for suspected cancer. This has improved for most types of cancer, as more people are talking to their GPs about their concerns.
The team at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has adapted to new ways of working, specifically with virtual, nurse-led and consultant-supported patient consultations during the pandemic, which has received excellent feedback. This has helped protect patients from unnecessary multiple visits to the Trust’s hospitals and therefore helped to prevent the spread of infection.
Dr Syed Mehdi, Consultant in Respiratory and Acute Medicine at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“The lung cancer team of specialist nurses and consultants has worked extremely hard to provide best and compassionate care in spite of pressures on acute Covid services. It is absolutely vital that people contact their GP if they have any cancer symptoms or concerns – finding and treating lung cancer at an early stage can save lives. We are proud to say that our Lung Cancer Masterclass is running for the third consecutive year, and the aim is to raise awareness of the disease amongst our colleagues in both primary and secondary care.”
The Lung Masterclass, supported by the Trust’s Cancer and End of Life Education Hub, is available to all staff across Lancashire and South Cumbria including primary care and medical students. The Trust is hosting the hub and investing in cancer education for staff at the regional cancer centre and beyond.
For lung cancer currently locally, less than 7 in 10 of the expected numbers of patients are contacting their GPs and being referred to hospital. Some patients are being diagnosed in A&E when they are unwell with advanced disease. If this continues, more people will be diagnosed later, resulting in a lower chance of survival.
Anne Tomlinson, Lead Cancer Nurse at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We are urging people not to risk their long-term health by delaying getting the help they need. NHS services are following strict social distancing and hygiene measures to allow people to access care safely. Our hospitals are safe and are continuing to provide care for non-Covid patients. GPs, pharmacies, NHS 111 and hospitals in the area are still open for those who need them.”
Dr Neil Smith, local GP and Primary Care Director for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance, said:
“It is a difficult time for patients and GPs to assess and deal with respiratory symptoms. The national message is if you have a cough, stay at home and isolate yourself. However not all coughing or breathing difficulty is caused by Covid-19. If someone has a cough or breathlessness that has gone on for three weeks, there is a risk of lung cancer. This is especially so for someone who is a smoker or has symptoms like coughing blood or losing weight.”
Dr Smith continued:
“The NHS is still here for you. GPs can arrange chest x-rays if they think someone may have lung cancer. Early diagnosis of cancer saves lives. It is essential that people continue to talk about their concerns about cancer. If you have persistent or worrying symptoms, please contact your doctor. Let’s talk cancer.”
If you need medical help from your GP practice, contact them online, by an app or by phone to be assessed. If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service. If you cannot get help online, call 111. If it’s a serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999. If you are told to go to hospital it is important that you go. You should continue to attend your appointments, unless you have been told not to.
More about lung cancer
• Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the country, with nearly 50,000 new cases in the UK each year.
• It is more common in people living in the most deprived areas and increases as people get older.
• More men are diagnosed with lung cancer than women.
• Around three-quarters of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage.
• Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 21% of all cancer deaths.
Online advice about lung cancer signs and symptoms
• NHS information about lung cancer signs and symptoms
• Cancer Research UK information about lung cancer
• Macmillan Cancer Support information about lung cancer
• Roy Castle Lung Foundation
• Lancashire and South Cumbria’s Let’s Talk Cancer campaign
Watch Dr Neil Smith's video