Don’t ignore cancer symptoms, warns Macmillan nurse

Don’t ignore cancer symptoms, warns Macmillan nurse, this message comes during Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Posted on in News & Events

The message comes during Lung Cancer Awareness Month amid concerns that people are missing out on an early diagnosis.

A Macmillan cancer nurse from Lincolnshire is urging people not to ignore the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer.

Tracie Charlton, a Macmillan Lung Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, says concerns around COVID-19 may be preventing some people from getting an early diagnosis.

She says the symptoms of COVID-19 are also creating confusion for people experiencing a persistent cough which is also one of the possible signs of lung cancer.

As part of Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November, Tracie is raising awareness of the early signs and symptoms of lung cancer and urging people to visit their GP if they have any concerns.

She said: “We are seeing more people being diagnosed with lung cancer in the advanced stages which means treatment can be less successful. I think some people are still nervous about going to their GP, or into hospital for tests due to COVID-19, which is preventing some people from getting an early diagnosis.”

Jim Spurr, 60, a lorry driver from the Lincoln area was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago. He had surgery to remove the top third of his lung which contained the tumour, followed by a course of chemotherapy, but in May this year discovered the cancer had come back and is now incurable.

He said: “I was getting out of breath more easily. Then I coughed something up and thought I saw a speck of blood in there but wasn’t 100% sure. I must admit I nearly didn’t go to the doctors. It was only because I was up early and was in the house by myself, I thought I may as well go and get checked out. If I hadn’t gone that day, god knows what would have happened. I don’t think I would be here.”

He’s now undergoing immunotherapy treatment to stop the cancer from spreading but further surgery isn’t possible due to the location of the tumour.

He said: “I have good days and bad days, but you’ve got to crack on, I live for each day. I’m a grandad now. My granddaughter, Eleanor, she keeps me going. We’ve just found out my daughter in law is expecting another little one in May, so I’m just hoping I keep going long enough to meet them.”

Fortunately, the Macmillan team at Lincoln County Hospital have been by his side from the moment of his diagnosis.

“When I was first diagnosed, it was horrible. They said lung cancer and I thought, that’s it, I’ll be dead by Christmas. I spoke to Bev and Claire at the Macmillan Information and Support Centre. They helped me a lot. I was able to phone then whenever a question came into my head. Bev even helped me to give up smoking.”

Now Jim wants to urge anyone who may be experiencing any symptoms of lung cancer to go to their GP.

He said: “If you are experiencing any symptoms of lung cancer, just go to the doctor straight away. Don’t be a macho man. Don’t leave it a week or two. Swallow your pride and go to the doctor. Because the earlier they catch it, the more likely it is to be treatable. It’s so lucky that I did go that day.”

The symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • A cough or hoarse voice for 3 weeks or more
  • A change in a cough you have had for a long time
  • A chest infection that does not get better, or repeated chest infections
  • Feeling breathless and wheezy for no reason
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain or shoulder pain that does not get better
  • Weight loss for no obvious reason
  • Feeling extremely tired (fatigue).

Macmillan nurse Tracie continued: “While we are living with COVID-19 it’s even more important for people to be vigilant and proactive when it comes to their health. We’ve seen people who have been diagnosed with lung cancer having had a cough for several weeks which they mistakenly put down to COVID-19. It is vital to visit your GP if you have a persistent cough which lasts three weeks or more.”

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK with around 48,500 people being diagnosed with it each year.

Tracie said: “We want to reassure everyone that COVID safe procedures are in place in hospitals and GP surgeries so please don’t ignore the earlier warning signs. Lung cancer can advance very quickly, so early diagnosis is key. If it is picked up in the early stages, there is a much higher chance of treatment being successful.”

If you are concerned about lung cancer contact your GP or call our support line on 0808 808 00 00 open Mon-Sun, 8am- 8pm. You can also find out more information about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer on our website