Scots with a persistent cough are being encouraged to see their GP

Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson

Scots are being urged to see their GP if they have been coughing for three weeks or more in a bid to boost early detection of lung cancer.

With latest analysis showing you are almost 20 times more likely to survive lung cancer if it is detected early; the Scottish Government’s lung cancer campaign is highlighting the importance of getting a persistent cough checked.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Scotland with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Experts say one reason patients are diagnosed so late is that they are unaware of the symptoms which include a persistent cough, chest pain, breathlessness and weight loss.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The disease can develop slowly over a number of years and often causes no pain. It is much more treatable than it used to be but being switched on to the symptoms and acting quickly to have them checked by a GP are crucial. If you do notice any changes to your cough, don’t ignore it, contact your GP – you won’t be wasting anyone’s time.”

The campaign is fronted by Sir Alex Ferguson, who lost both parents to the disease.

He said: “Everyone should be aware of the signs of lung cancer. If you or someone you know has a cough that won’t clear up, don’t ignore it. With higher survival rates for people who seek help at an earlier stage, it’s worthwhile raising it with your GP sooner rather than later.”

This latest drive is part of the Detect Cancer Early programme which aims to increase the proportion of people who are diagnosed in the early stages of breast, bowel and lung cancer by 25 per cent by the end of 2015.

Encouraging Scots to visit their GP if they have any concerns, Glasgow-based GP Dr Douglas Rigg added: “If you have a cough for three weeks or more, your GP wants to see you. For most people it isn’t a serious problem, but it does need to be checked because a long lasting cough can be a sign of lung cancer.

“The earlier lung cancer is found, the easier it is to treat and the better your chance of survival. You shouldn’t worry about wasting our time because the sooner we see you, the easier it is for us to help.

“The initial tests are straightforward and can be arranged quickly, so don’t put it off. If you, or someone close to you has noticed a cough for more than three weeks, make an appointment to speak with your GP now. It could save your life.”

Kenneth Tulloch from Bridge of Don, Aberdeen was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer in January 2013. He had a persistent cough for months and was being treated for a chest infection, but his cough wouldn’t go away.

When Kenneth and his wife Linda saw the British Lung Foundation clinic at a city centre market in October 2012, Linda persuaded him to speak to the staff. After a breathing test, Kenneth went back to his GP who referred him for a chest x-ray, which showed a shadow on his left lung.

Kenneth was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, and after surgery to remove the cancer, he is now in remission and living a normal life. He is backing the campaign in a bid to encourage others not to ignore a persistent cough.

Kenneth said: “I had the cough for weeks and my wife pushed me to get it seen to. As someone who had never smoked I didn’t think it was anything serious, but the cough wouldn’t clear up. I wasn’t able to sleep and it was becoming very wearing.

“Once I saw my GP and was referred, things moved really quickly. In the January I went for a CT scan and biopsy and was allocated a cancer nurse who was fantastic. In February I was told the cancer was all in one area, and the operation to remove the lower part of my left lung went ahead a week later.

“Thankfully, the operation was a success. The surgeon was confident he had removed everything, but I had to go through chemotherapy as a precaution.

“I was home from hospital after nine days and able to walk down my street within five weeks of the surgery. My GP has been unbelievably good since I’ve been home, he visited me shortly after getting back from hospital and the aftercare has been fantastic.

“I have routine follow-ups but I have my life back. If I hadn’t seen the GP about my cough, things could have been very different. That quick diagnosis at an early stage saved my life and I’d encourage anyone who has a cough that won’t go away to see their GP immediately.”