Health teams in Medway are asking anyone who’s had a persistent cough for three weeks or more to see their GP, in support of a national campaign to raise awareness of lung cancer. The national lung cancer campaign which started on 2 July and runs until 11 August, is part of Public Health England’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign, which aims to raise public awareness of symptoms of cancer and encourage people with symptoms to see their GP earlier.

More than 140 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in Medway each year, making it one of the most common types of cancer in the area – and a persistent cough lasting for three weeks or more is one of the tell-tale signs.

The key message is: if you’ve been coughing for three weeks, tell your doctor. Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of any cancer because over two-thirds of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when treatment that could cure is not possible. More lives could be saved if people were diagnosed at an earlier stage.

Macmillan GP advisor and Medway GP Dr Rosie Loftus, who features on posters being used to promote the campaign nationally, said: “Many people believe if you have lung cancer it’s the end. In my experience it doesn’t have to be this way. Lung cancer can be treated and you can have a good quality of life afterwards.

“But it’s important for people to be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer – if you have a cough that lasts more than three weeks then go to see your doctor. Early diagnosis means you have a better chance of survival. “It’s very straightforward for your doctor to examine you and decide whether you need a chest X-ray. The process is simple and if your doctor suspects it might be cancer you will see a specialist within two weeks. They would then arrange for further tests and, if necessary, treatment.

“Sometimes, people are worried about bothering their GP. “Doctors understand that a cough that lasts more than three weeks, or has changed, may need treatment. They are ready and waiting to help and will not think you are wasting their time. And if your symptoms persist, go back to your doctor – they’ll want to help.” Dr Loftus added: “Other signs to look out for are a cough that has changed over time; coughing up blood; tiredness or lack of energy; unexplained weight loss; chest or shoulder pain and being short of breath; having a chest infection that does not go away with treatment or a hoarse voice.”

Dr Alison Barnett, Medway’s Director of Public Health, said: “While anyone can be at risk of developing lung cancer, the risk is higher for people who are 50 plus. “When diagnosed at its earliest stage, around 73 per cent of patients with non small cell lung cancer and around 56 per cent of patients with small cell lung cancer survive for at least one year after diagnosis.”

Medway Council and NHS Medway (CCG) are part of the Medway Health and Wellbeing Board which has agreed a joint strategy to improve the health of local people.