The NHS has launched the Help Us, Help You lung cancer campaign. Its aim is to encourage those with symptoms of lung cancer, such as a long-standing cough or shortness of breath, to contact their GP for further investigations.
The Office for National Statistics reported 26,140 lung cancer related deaths in England last year - the fifth highest cause of death in the country.
Healthcare professionals in Yorkshire and the North East are concerned that those people most at risk of developing lung cancer may not seek medical advice and lung cancer referrals have been slower to return to pre-pandemic levels than other types of cancer.
The NHS Help Us, Help You campaign in Yorkshire and North East is therefore specifically targeting the groups of people most at risk of developing cancer - including over-60s and those from groups who are less likely to access health services. The campaign also encourages family members and friends to support loved ones to seek medical advice if they demonstrate symptoms of lung cancer.
The importance of early diagnosis
I recently spoke to Bethany Marjoram, a lung cancer nurse from Bradford about the importance of early diagnosis. Bethany said that in 2017-2018 deaths from lung cancer were greater in the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance area than any other type of cancer.
With 70 per cent of all lung cancers caused by smoking and smoking rates in West Yorkshire being higher than the national average, this means that people from Yorkshire are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer. As there are often no signs or symptoms from lung cancer when it is at an early stage, seven out of 10 lung cancer patients are still being diagnosed at an advanced stage where it is too late to offer curative treatment.
Early detection enables more treatment options to become available to these patients and in turn this can lead to better outcomes making a difference to not only the individual with cancer, but their loved ones as well.
To put this into perspective, 88 per cent of people diagnosed with an early stage lung cancer such as stage one; will survive for at least one year from diagnosis. This is compared to only 19 per cent of those diagnosed with the most advanced stage of this disease.
As Bethany comments, the detection of lung cancer at an earlier stage can lead to an improved prognosis and accessing treatment.
Support following diagnosis
Sadly, there will still be those patients who will receive a life-limiting diagnosis but research suggests earlier access to palliative care, such as seeking assistance from hospices, can improve quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones.
Hospices can also provide advice on managing symptoms as well as offering support on emotional and social matters.
In my role as an asbestos-related disease lawyer, I've seen first-hand the importance and difference it can make when a diagnosis of lung cancer is provided at an earlier stage. It's widely accepted there needs to be heavy exposure to asbestos dust and fibre in order to establish such exposure caused lung cancer. Accordingly it assists if specialist solicitors have sufficient time to complete their thorough investigations and obtain detailed witness evidence from the client in support of the legal claim.
Unfortunately if specialist solicitors are instructed in the later stages, then the opportunity to obtain evidence in support of a claim can prove more difficult, however as always it is extremely important to seek specialist legal advice at any stage.
Securing damages and access to care
Furthermore if there has been an early diagnosis, as part of the legal claim, specialist solicitors can look to secure damages for rehabilitation, care packages, treatment which will support our clients and their loved ones at a difficult time in their lives.
We can also assisting with signposting to support services when needed in order to make a positive difference in their lives.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by lung cancer, whether as a result of their work or as a result of a diagnosis delay, at our website.
The NHS in North East and Yorkshire is encouraging people with symptoms, such as a long-standing persistent cough, to contact their GP practice for potentially lifesaving checks in its latest campaign to catch lung cancer earlier when it is easier to treat.