We’ve all had a cough before but sometimes we ignore it or assume that our cough is due to a change in weather or pollution. This month the NHS warns us not to ignore a persistent cough that has lasted for three weeks or more – get it checked out by your doctor. A cough that lasts for three weeks or more is the most common symptom of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is currently the biggest cancer killer in England, causing around 28,000 deaths each year. Those diagnosed at the earliest stage are five times more likely to survive the disease for at least five years, than those who are diagnosed at a late stage.
Marina Soya-Bongay, Macmillan Lung Clinical Specialist Nurse, works with lung cancer patients and their families at St George’s Hospital she said “there are many misconceptions within our community about cancer and whether it’s treatable or not. Some people in our community believe that you cannot survive cancer but with early diagnosis many have fought and won their battle with lung cancer. It can be treated if caught early and you can go on to have a good quality of life afterwards.”
Yvonne West’s story shows how early diagnosis can save your life. At the age of 53-years-old, the mother-of-two has courageously beaten lung cancer twice and is about to see her youngest daughter go to University. She was first diagnosed with the illness in 2001 and although lung cancer is most commonly associated with those over the age of 50, Yvonne was in her 40s.
The only symptoms Yvonne had at the time was a dry cough that would come in the evening and losing her voice in the morning, which she put down to stress of family life. After being encouraged by her boss to go to the doctors, she was sent for a chest X-ray at her local hospital. It was then she was given the news.
“At first I couldn’t believe it, the only symptoms I had were losing my voice and a dry cough. It took a little time for it to sink in but in the end I had faith in God and decided that I wouldn’t let this beat me, I had two young girls to look after.”
Yvonne was told that she had a 16cm tumour in her left lung; the doctors explained that due to the size of the cancer the best course of treatment was to remove the whole lung.
After the operation to remove her lung, Yvonne also underwent a course of chemotherapy, which resulted in her becoming clear of cancer. However the devoted mother had to muster her strength again in 2009 to fight the second bout of cancer, which had come back, this time in her right lung.
“When I was told the cancer came back, I was angry at first because I wasn’t sure if I could cope. However with the support of my girls and sister I have managed to come through this and still smile. I’d recommend anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of lung cancer or have any concerns to go to their doctor straight away and get it checked out. Don’t waste time worrying, just go. Maybe if I’d have gone sooner the doctors may have been able to save some of my lung instead of me having it completely removed.”
Following six months of chemotherapy and a recovery period of two years, Yvonne was told she was in remission and since then has been determined to live life to the fullest.
Marina Soya-Bongay explains why it is important not to ignore a persistent cough that has lasted for three weeks or more.
“If you have a cough which lasts for three weeks or more it may be nothing serious, but you should speak to your doctor and avoid self-diagnosis. If your doctor is concerned they will send you for a chest X-ray which is quick and simple and nothing to worry about. Remember the sooner you are diagnosed the more likely your treatment will be successful. Detecting lung cancer early could save your life and the lives of your loved ones.”
A cough that lasts for three weeks or more is the most common symptom of lung cancer.
Some of the other symptoms include:
• A cough that has got worse or changes
• Repeated chest infections
• Coughing up blood
• Feeling more tired than usual for some time
• Losing weight for no obvious reason
• An ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time.
If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away. Detecting lung cancer early makes it easier to treat, so seeing your doctor quickly may save your life. It’s probably nothing serious but it could also be a sign of something else that needs treatment.
To find out more about lung cancer visit www.nhs.uk/lungcancer