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The Primary Care Respiratory Society

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Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Thursday 1st November marks the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It educates patients about the need to recognise symptoms and present earlier to their GP and reminds healthcare professionals of the need for early diagnosis.

Professor Michael Peake, Clinical Director, Centre for Cancer Outcomes, University College London Hospitals, told the recent PCRS national primary care respiratory conference that late diagnosis is the main reason why long term survival rates for lung cancer patients are so poor in the UK. 

He said primary care clinicians were in a difficult position because most early lung cancers are asymptomatic and symptoms even when they occur are often non-specific.  However there has been some shift towards earlier diagnosis in recent years.

Learning points:

  • Early diagnosis makes a huge difference. The majority of patients diagnosed with early stage lung cancer can expect to live more than five years but most of those with late stage disease are dead within a year of diagnosis
  • A combination of high risk patient characteristics and symptoms can help GPs in the difficult task of identifying those most likely to have a diagnosis of lung cancer  
  • Early use of low dose CT scans in high risk patients can lead to early stage diagnosis in many patients.

Update your knowledge:

  • Read this feature in Primary Care Respiratory Update about a case history of a presentation of mesothelioma by Dr Stephen Holmes
  • Attend this workshop on promoting the early and rapid diagnosis of lung cancer at a workshop being run by The UK Lung Cancer Coalition and Cancer Research UK on 28 November, Friends House, London.
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