Patients with a cough persisting over three weeks are being advised to attend their GP and ask if an X-ray is needed to rule out lung cancer.
This advice comes from the Royal College of Physicians to coincide with the launch of the results of the National Lung Cancer Audit.
The audit is managed by The NHS Information Centre in partnership with the RCP and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership. Results from the audit shows that more patients than ever before in the UK are receiving treatment for lung cancer either with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. In 2010, 13.7% of patients in England and Wales and 11.1% of patients in Scotland underwent surgery for lung cancer, compared to 10.8% and 10.6% respectively in 2008. However, many people still do not consult their doctor until it is too late for the treatment to be effective.
Lung cancer kills more people in the UK each year than any other form of cancer. The audit collected data on 38,057 patients in Great Britain and Northern Ireland representing approximately 93 per cent of the expected number of new lung cancer cases.
Professor John Britton, chair of the RCP’s tobacco advisory group, said: "Anyone with a persistent cough should go to their GP – if cancer is caught early, treatment can be effective. The high rates of lung cancer in the UK are a legacy of our previous high smoking rates, and even people who gave up smoking a long time ago can still be at risk, so it is important that they consult their GP as soon as they spot any likely symptoms."