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New figures reveal urgent need for research into lung cancer in the UK

UK cancer support charity Macmillan has released new figures that help reveal cancer survival rates in the UK. The results are generally very encouraging: survival rates of many cancers – including colon cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma – show major improvement. But lung cancer represents one of the concerning anomalies. It’s a finding made especially significant given that November is lung cancer awareness month.

Here’s a rundown of some important facts and figures, the early signs and symptoms that we should all be aware of, and some suggestions if you would like to know more about lung cancer awareness month.

Macmillan Cancer Support’s study shows that people now live nearly six times longer after a cancer diagnosis than was the case 40 years ago, with median survival time increasing from one year to six years. But lung cancer survival rates have shown minimal improvement since the 1970s, moving only slightly from 13 weeks to 20 weeks. These figures are made even more alarming when you consider the nationwide prevalence of lung cancer.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society suggest lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the UK. Around 39,000 new diagnoses are made each year – about 109 per day. Crucially, lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in the UK, accounting for more than 1 in 5 lost lives. So as you might expect, one of the main aims of lung cancer awareness month is to inform the public about the importance of early detection and diagnosis.

The problem with lung cancer is that most patients are diagnosed when the condition is already at an advanced stage. But when lung cancer is diagnosed early, more treatment options are available and survival prospects are greatly improved. In fact, treatment is 40 times more likely to be successful. For advice on the early symptoms that we should all look out for, visit the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Of course, there are things you can do to minimise the risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking causes 90% of all cases. But the Royal Pharmaceutical Society state that the moment you stop smoking, the risk of lung cancer starts to fall. Fifteen years after quitting smoking, the risk of lung cancer is almost the same as that of a non-smoker.

Lung cancer awareness month is a campaign jointly organised by Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and Macmillan Cancer Support. The report that includes Macmillan's research findings on cancer survival rates is available as a pdf here.

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Written By Tristan Rothwell

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