Lung cancer campaigners have called on health officials to warn people about the symptoms of the biggest cancer killer in Wales.
Lung cancer accounts for more than a fifth of cancer deaths, more than bowel and breast cancer combined, according to a recent report from Public Health Wales.
The UK Lung Cancer Coalition said Wales also had one of the lowest survival rates in Europe for the disease. The Welsh government accepted it had to go further in tackling lung cancer.
The call by a collection of charities, experts, professionals and healthcare companies follows a report on cancer in Wales from Public Health Wales in April which revealed lung cancer killed nearly 1,900 people in Wales in 2012 – 22% of the total number of deaths from cancer.
Lung cancer sufferers were also 12 times less likely to survive up to five years after diagnosis compared to people with breast cancer, according to the report.
Outcomes for lung cancer patients also remain poor in Wales when compared to other UK and European countries.
Dr Ian Lewis, director of research and policy at Cardiff-based cancer charity Tenovus, said: “More can be done to alert people to the signs and symptoms of this devastating disease in order to ensure earlier diagnosis and increase chances of survival.”
“People don’t like to bother their doctor and that’s an issue for people not getting diagnosed early enough and not getting treatment.
“Prognosis overall for lung cancer is poor but if discovered early enough the success for treatment is improved greatly.”
The BBC gives an insight into being diagnosed with lung cancer by talking about Mags Roberts’ story. Mrs Roberts, 58, from Cardiff, was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 52 after feeling breathless while walking up a hill in Pembrokeshire
She said: “I was quite shocked as I’d never smoked so I never thought I’d get it.
“I wasn’t ill in bed – I was going to work every day.”
Mrs Roberts had to take early retirement from her job as a secondary school teacher for treatment with chemotherapy followed by courses of tablets which she continues to take to this day.
“I’ve got to live with it but I’m really fortunate to have a fantastic medical team looking after me and the support of my family and friends,” said Mrs Roberts.
“It was only because I’d had asthma as a child that I thought of going to the doctor to check – it was lucky I went really.
“I’m really positive about life – I wake up every day and feel keen to make the most of it.”
A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The Welsh NHS is spending more than ever on cancer care and while Wales has shown the biggest improvement in overall cancer survival rates of all UK nations, we need to go further when it comes to lung cancer.
“From this year all GPs will have to review every diagnosis of lung cancer to improve awareness and skills to support earlier diagnosis.
“We currently fund a number anti-smoking and healthier lifestyle campaigns – however, individuals have a key role in changing their habits to avoid unnecessary harm such as smoking.”
Here are the general symptoms of lung cancer:
- Having a cough most of the time
- A change in a cough you have had for a long time
- Being short of breath
- Coughing up phlegm (sputum) with signs of blood in it
- An ache or pain when breathing or coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Losing weight
Sources: Cancer Research UK and BBC Wales