A cough could be a sign of cancer, not just Covid

Date posted: 17th February 2021 A cough could be a sign of cancer, not just Covid thumbnail image

Doctors in Lancashire and South Cumbria are urging residents to not ignore a persistent cough, not every cough is coronavirus (Covid-19) it could also be a symptom of lung cancer. Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer. Around 47,000 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK.

The number of people contacting their GP with suspected lung cancer in Lancashire and South Cumbria remains low; and in 2020, there were 29% fewer referrals to hospital for lung cancer compared to the previous year. If this continues, more people will be diagnosed later, resulting in a lower chance of survival. Finding and treating lung cancer at an early stage saves lives.

Emma Barber, Lung Cancer Specialist Nurse for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“As well as providing a rapid response to the ongoing pandemic, cancer services remain a top priority for the NHS, and cancer assessments and treatments are continuing. We want to reassure people that despite coronavirus cancer teams are still working hard to provide support to patients accessing diagnostics and cancer services. GPs, pharmacies, NHS 111, and hospitals in the area are still open for those who need them. The NHS is here to see you safely.”


Dr Neil Smith, local GP lead and Primary Care Director for Lancashire and South Cumbria Cancer Alliance said:

“It’s vital that everyone is aware of lung cancer signs and symptoms because anyone can develop lung cancer; men and women, young and old, smokers and non-smokers. If you have lungs, you can get the disease. At the moment if you hear a cough you automatically think Covid. But a persistent cough that lasts for three weeks or more, or that changes or gets worse, is also one of the most common symptoms of lung cancer and must not be ignored. GPs like me are here to help you. Contact your GP if you have a new persistent cough, are coughing up blood, have new breathlessness, unexplained tiredness, or weight loss. These could all be symptoms of lung cancer. It’s probably nothing serious, but it’s important to get checked out. Early diagnosis could save your life.”


Dr Syed Mehdi, Lung Cancer Lead and Chest Consultant for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said:

“If you have a new, persistent cough or one of the other coronavirus symptoms – a high temperature or a change or loss in your sense of taste or smell – you should book a test online (opens in a new window) or by calling 119 as soon as possible and self-isolate (opens in a new window). If you still have a persistent cough after receiving a negative Covid test result or after recovering from Covid, please contact your GP. It’s important that if something isn’t normal for you or you have concerns about possible signs and symptoms of cancer, you don’t delay contacting your GP. Finding cancer early makes it more treatable. The NHS is here for you. Just speak to your GP.”

If you need medical help from your GP practice, contact them online, by an app or by phone to be assessed. If you need urgent medical help, use the NHS 111 online service (opens in a new window). If you cannot get help online, call 111. If it is a serious or life-threatening emergency, call 999. If you are told to go to hospital, it is important that you go. You should continue to attend your appointments unless you have symptoms of Covid-19 or are self-isolating.

Watch Dr Neil Smith - lung cancer signs and symptoms


Hello, my name is Neil Smith. I'm a GP and I'm really worried about lung cancer.

At the moment, if you think of a cough, you automatically think of Covid-19, and I am seeing fewer of my patients coming forward to tell me about their concerns of lung cancer.

As GPs, we are noticing fewer referrals for suspected lung cancer, and my concern is, if this continues, we'll be diagnosing more people with lung cancer at a later stage.

I know that if we can diagnose and treat lung cancer early, there's a much better chance of survival.

So, my message is, that not all coughs are due to Covid. If you have a new persistent cough, lasting more than 3 weeks, especially if you have recently had a negative Covid test, but even if you are recovering from Covid.

If you've got any other worrying symptoms, especially coughing up blood, new, unexplained breathlessness, weight loss, fatigue. These could all be symptoms of lung cancer.

It's probably nothing serious, but it's better to get it checked out. GPs like me are here to help you. We really do want to know. We can assess and see you safely.

So please don't delay. If somethings not right for you, if you've got new, worrying symptoms or signs that could be cancer. Please contact your GP.

I know that early diagnosis of cancer really does save lives.

Thank you.


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