Many people in NSW are delaying seeking treatment for symptoms consistent with lung cancer, a new study from the Cancer Institute NSW reveals.
The study of over 1,000 people from across the state aged over 40 shows some symptoms consistent with lung cancer are considered trivial, and most people would not visit their GP until they become more serious.
This is despite almost 90 per cent of people being aware of at least one symptom of the disease.
Why is it so important to listen out for lung cancer?
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women both in NSW and Australia overall, with survival rates improving little over the past 30 years.
The current five-year survival rate is only 16 per cent, but if detected early the chance of living to five years after diagnosis can increase to around 66 per cent.1
Despite this, the recent study highlights how symptoms consistent with lung cancer that are perceived as trivial are being ignored or attributed to other conditions.
Symptoms consistent with lung cancer include:
- persistent cough (lasting longer than 3 weeks)
- change in cough
- coughing up blood.
Why aren't people paying attention?
The study shows over 82 per cent of people in the sample population can identify between one and three symptoms of lung cancer.
It isn’t until symptoms like haemoptysis (coughing up blood) or dyspnoea (shortness of breath), however, where people are more likely to feel a sense of urgency to visit a GP.
The study collected both quantitative and qualitative data, giving a comprehensive insight into lung cancer knowledge and attitudes in NSW.
Participants mentioned during focus groups that if they believed symptoms were severe enough then they would go to the doctor, but not because they thought they had lung cancer.
Current and former smokers in the focus groups also expressed fear of judgement or blame as reasons for currently delaying GP visits for symptoms consistent with lung cancer.
Professor David Currow, Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW, says it’s vital people not only listen for the signs of lung cancer, but act on them.
“It is important to not delay seeking treatment for symptoms consistent with lung cancer,” he says.
“If you are experiencing symptoms including persistent cough, change in cough or coughing up blood, see your GP.”
Data collected for the study was commissioned by the Cancer Institute NSW.
 Based on a 5-year absolute survival of people in NSW diagnosed with localised non-small cell lung cancer 2003–2007, who received surgery within 6 months of diagnosis. Data source: Linked NSW Central Cancer Registry and NSW Admitted Patient Data Collection.