Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Ulster's deadliest cancer: signs we shouldn't ignore

As Lung Cancer Awareness Month gets under way today, a cancer charity is urging people across Northern Ireland to be aware of the early symptoms and tell-tale signs of the disease.

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in Northern Ireland, claiming the lives of more than 800 people each year.

It has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer: Less than half of all patients with the disease are still alive six months after diagnosis.

Macmillan Cancer Support said one of the main reasons for this is because people present to their GP too late.

Heather Monteverde, the charity's Northern Ireland general manager, said: "Many people do not realise lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in Northern Ireland and that it can also affect anyone - men and women of all ages, of all backgrounds.

"In fact many more women are dying from lung cancer than breast cancer in Northern Ireland. We need increased public awareness and for the Assembly to make lung cancer a priority. Sometimes people do not know how to identify the early signs that can be developing, so this month we are trying to reach out to as many people as possible with the message: the earlier lung cancer is detected, the more successful treatment is likely to be."

Mary Ann Conlon, Macmillan lung cancer nurse specialist at the Antrim Area Hospital, said she had seen patients arrive with symptoms including persistent coughing up of blood, shortness of breath, weight loss, coughing or chest pain.

"I can't emphasise enough how important it is to get these symptoms checked out as soon as possible if they occur," she said.

"Your lungs are crucial to your health and it is important to look after them. This means keeping physically active and giving up smoking if you smoke.

"Smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, and it is never too late to quit. The good news is that new treatments have increased survival rates, and if the cancer is caught early enough, treatment can be more successful."

Lung cancer nurses are offering their support to the campaign by providing advice to shoppers at two shopping centres in Belfast, Castlecourt on November 5 and the Park Centre on November 17.

Members of the public can benefit from expert advice and can ask the nurses questions.

This month Macmillan is distributing specially produced literature throughout Northern Ireland which highlight the symptoms of lung cancer to help patients and the public identify the disease in the early stages.

For help and advice, call the Macmillan Cancerline on 0808 808 2020.

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