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COVID-19 didn’t stop a quick cancer diagnosis for Lancashire man

31st March 2021

71-year-old Gwam didn’t think he was in danger of serious issues with his lungs, until he developed a cough he could not ignore. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, cancer services have remained a priority for the NHS. Investigations, diagnosis, and treatment are continuing, and local teams are working hard to ensure that the NHS is there to see patients safely.

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a sharp drop in the number of patients contacting their GPs with suspected lung cancer. From April 2020 – January 2021 compared to the previous year, urgent lung cancer referrals in Lancashire and South Cumbria dropped by 32%. 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 can save lives.

Gwam said:

“I had a nagging cough for a number of months, but I didn’t think much of it until I began to cough up blood. I have been a fairly fit man, always been healthy, I go to the gym five times a week, never been a smoker or been exposed to any hazardous materials. So, I thought I’d be unlikely to have any problem with my lungs. I called my GP with my concerns and was quickly referred to a specialist for an urgent face-to-face consultation at the hospital. Tests showed a shadow on my lungs which was diagnosed as lung cancer. I was in surgery within a matter of weeks and have since completed chemotherapy treatment, followed by radiotherapy. Now, I’m in good health, back at work and doing lots of walking to stay fit and have a review consultation booked in. I’m so glad I spoke to my GP with my concerns because catching lung cancer early makes it more treatable.”

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

“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 should not be ignored. 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 because early diagnosis saves lives. It’s important that if something isn’t normal for you or you have concerns about possible signs and symptoms of cancer, you speak to your GP. GPs like me are here to help you.”

Watch Gwam's story here: 

Video Transcript

I'm 71 years old, always been fit, healthy, attend the gym 5 times a week, never had any problem at all, never smoked, never been exposed to any hazardous material.

Last year, early 2020, I began to develop an irritating cough, which I thought well, it is unlikely I will have any problems with my lungs, and therefore ignored it, until one day, I coughed some blood, which my wife immediately, kind of, advised me or pushed me, to ring my GP, which I did, and he immediately referred me to the hospital for an early appointment, and the hospital sent me an appointment within 2 weeks.

I met the consultant chest physician, who advised to have a scan. Initially, it was a chest x-ray, which showed a shadow on my right lung. Eventually, he decided to refer me for a CT scan, which diagnosed lung cancer, and following that diagnosis, I was referred to the surgical unit in Blackpool, for removal of the right upper lobe of my lungs, which I did, and this followed by a course of chemotherapy, which went well, and that followed by a course of radiotherapy, which I finished at the beginning of this year.

Now, feeling well and I've had regular consultations with my cancer specialists and the nurse specialist as well. So far, everything is going really well, and I'm now back to work, and I've started to do a bit of gentle exercise, walking about 3, 4 miles a day, and hopefully, I'm back to normal. I think the message I would like to give is basically, do not ignore any symptoms of cancer, you just need to contact your GP, have a chat, and it may be nothing to worry about.

However, the system is so good in this country that there is a clear pathway to diagnose any potential problems.

 

Watch Dr Neil Smith:

Video Transcript

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.