Health: Coughing for more than three weeks? Then see your doctor

breaking news
breaking news

People who have been coughing persistently for three weeks or more should tell their doctor.

The plea was made this week by Dr Sheila Newport, Chair of Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation responsible for the health care of residents of Derby and surrounding areas.

Marking the launch of the NHS’ “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign, she warned that a nagging cough that had changed or got worse was sometimes a symptom of lung cancer.

To raise awareness of the tell-tale signs, the CCG is to hold face-to-face events in public places including shopping centres and supermarkets during the six-week campaign. Details will be revealed in a week or so.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in England, with around 34,000 cases diagnosed every year. It kills more men and women than any other form of cancer.

It affects people of all ages but is most common in those who are over 50. Although it is more common in smokers, around one in eight people with lung cancer has never smoked.

The risk of lung cancer increases with age but finding it early improves the chances of successful treatment. That is why people should see their doctor straight away if they have been coughing for three weeks or more or if they have any of the following symptoms:

Repeated chest infections

Coughing up blood

Breathlessness

Feeling more tired than usual for some time

Losing weight for no obvious reason

Having an ache or pain in the chest or shoulder that has lasted some time.

Dr Newport said: “If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away. It’s probably nothing serious but it could also be a sign of something else that needs treatment.

“So don’t ignore the symptoms or put off a trip to the doctor. It can make the world of difference and you won’t be wasting anyone’s time.

“And if you know anyone who has any of these symptoms, insist they see their doctor. Again, it’s probably nothing serious but they should get it checked out.”

Patients visiting their doctor will be asked a few questions and may be asked to have an x-ray, which is standard procedure and nothing to worry about. Taking an x-ray is quick and simple and does not need an overnight hospital stay.

GP contact details can be found at www.nhs.uk/lungcancer.

Patient Ann Long, aged 77, said: “I’d urge anybody with symptoms that might be lung cancer, like a persistent cough, to go and see their doctor straight away. I’m glad I did.

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 and I can still do all the things I did before my treatment like long walks, swimming and spending time with my family.”

Stopping smoking reduces the chances of getting lung cancer. There is plenty of help available by visiting www.smokefree.nhs.uk or calling 0800 169 0169.

Being active also helps keep lungs healthy. Swimming, cycling and walking to the shops instead of taking the car can all make a difference.