Be clear on cancer

New figures show 2,472 people died of lung cancer in the East Midlands during 2014, as campaign launches to raise awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer, lung disease[1] and heart disease – all leading causes of death in England[i]

  • Campaign encourages anyone with a persistent cough, or who gets out of breath doing things they used to be able to do, to visit their GP as it could be a sign of one of these conditions

Public Health England today (14th July) launches a new ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign with the aim of raising awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer, lung disease and heart disease – all leading causes of death in England.

Latest figures show that 3,270 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in the East Midlands in 2014.[ii] Figures from June 2014 to June 2015 reveal 91,209 people are living with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – a common form of lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis)[iii] and 166,954 with coronary heart disease.[iv]

Earlier diagnosis of these diseases has the potential to save lives. For instance, 83% of people diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage (stage 1) will live for at least a year after diagnosis. At the latest stage (stage 4), this drops to 17%.[v]  Sadly, 2,472 people died from the disease in the East Midlands in 2014.[vi]  Earlier diagnosis can also improve the quality of life of those living with conditions such as COPD.

Across England, lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer, accounting for around 28,400 deaths each year,[vii] while COPD is the cause of a further 24,000 deaths annually.[viii] Coronary heart disease (the main type of heart disease) is the single biggest cause of death, accounting for over 56,000 deaths in England each year.[ix] 

A persistent cough or getting out of breath doing everyday tasks that you used to be able to do, such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming, could be a sign of lung cancer or other lung disease. Breathlessness could be a sign of heart disease as well. The campaign encourages anyone experiencing these symptoms to see their GP as finding these conditions early makes them more treatable.

The campaign is aimed at men and women aged 50 and over, as older people are most at risk of lung cancer, COPD and heart disease. It will build on the success of the previous Be Clear on Cancer lung cancer campaigns and a regional breathlessness pilot (which focused on lung and heart disease), making this the first national campaign of its kind to raise awareness of these conditions jointly.

Ann Crawford, Deputy Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England East Midlands, said:

“Our latest figures show more than 258,000 people are living with COPD or heart disease in the East of England. At the same time, during 2014, 3,270 people were newly diagnosed with lung cancer and, tragically, 2,472 people died of the same disease.

“PHE East of England is urging anyone, but especially those over 50, who has a persistent cough or gets out of breath easier than they used to, to visit their doctor for a chat. 

“These symptoms could be nothing, but they are also potential signs of lung cancer, COPD and heart disease that can be easy to ignore. Instead, we want residents to be aware of the signs and, if needed, start treatment as quickly as possible.

“The sooner these three big diseases are spotted and patients start treatment, the greater the chance to save lives and help people manage these conditions.”  

Media Medic, Dr Hilary Jones added:


“People may put off visiting their GP for a number of reasons. 

“Some may not realise a symptom like a persistent cough or getting out of breath doing things that you used to be able to do could be a sign of something serious, or they may be fearful of what they will find out, or even worry about wasting their GP’s time. 

“These symptoms may well be nothing to worry about, but if it is something serious then the sooner it’s diagnosed, the better the chances of treating it effectively. Anyone who has either of these symptoms should visit their GP – don’t worry about wasting our time, we want to see you.”

The nationwide Be Clear on Cancer campaign will begin on Thursday 14th July and run until October 16th.  For further information about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, other lung diseases and heart disease, search ‘Be Clear on Cancer’.

-ENDS-

Case study: Peter Burrows, 72, Mansfield Woodhouse, Mansfield, Notts

Peter was diagnosed with COPD in 2010 at the age of 66. Six years on, he is now a hospital volunteer with the pulmonary rehab team at King’s Mill Hospital, helping them run exercise classes for COPD patients, a board member of his local CCG (Mansfield and Ashfield) and chairman of his local Breathe Easy group.

Peter was diagnosed after he accompanied his wife to one of her doctor’s appointments.

“I was waiting for her, reading the notice board at the doctors, and I saw the notice about COPD and I thought to myself, ‘you know, I do have problems going up and down stairs and getting out of puff more’, so I made an appointment there and then.”

After seeing his doctor, Peter was referred to specialists at King’s Mill hospital in Mansfield, where he underwent x-rays and various breathing tests, before being diagnosed with emphysema (a sub-condition of COPD).

He was then prescribed pulmonary rehabilitation – an intensive programme of 12 hospital sessions over six weeks, whereby the team helped Peter and other patients learn about breathing techniques, positions to help clear their lungs and different exercises to suit their ability.

And Peter is especially grateful to all the nurses who helped him through the sessions.

“All the nurses at Mansfield NHS Trust are second to none, they are absolutely fantastic with patients,” he says.

He is adamant that anyone experiencing the symptoms highlighted in the Be Clear On Cancer campaign see their GP, and if they do get diagnosed with a condition, that they understand support is there.

“In my experience of talking to others, if people have a pain in the chest or difficulty breathing they don’t go to the doctor because they fear the worst and are scared. But you must go – the sooner you diagnose one of these conditions, the sooner you can do something about it.”

“Before, I was having to carry the shopping home, up and down Mansfield’s hills, and I was finding I just couldn’t do it. Now, after all the support and rehab I can go down into town and bring back the shopping, no problem. Before, I used to just stay indoors and stare out of the window, now I’m out and about, enjoying caravanning.

“Getting diagnosed and taking part in the hospital sessions and learning how to manage my COPD has given me my life back.”

Issued by: PHE East Midlands. Tel: Emma Cooper on 01158 441399 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

@PHE_EastMids

Notes to Editors

  1. Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: . Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:
  2. Be Clear on Cancer campaigns are run by Public Health England in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England.
  3. Early diagnosis of cancer is a major priority for this Government in helping us to improve cancer survival. Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, which aim to raise public awareness of the symptoms of cancer and encourage earlier presentation, are included in the Report of the Independent Cancer Taskforce “Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015 – 2020”. The campaigns also form an integral part of the Public Health England Marketing Plan for 2014-17, which was published in July 2014.
  4. Celebrity supporters of this campaign include:
  • Gloria Hunniford (TV presenter) – Gloria lost her first husband to an undiagnosed heart condition 
  • Tricia Penrose (Actress) – Tricia’s mother is living with lung cancer
  • Gaby Roslin (TV presenter and actress) – Gaby’s mother died of lung cancer
  • Jeremy Sheffield (Actor) – Jeremy’s father had a form of heart disease
  • Nikesh Shukla (Writer) – Nikesh’s mother died of lung cancer
  1. Additional facts and statistics, as well as pictures, quotes and video footage of celebrity ambassadors can be found via this dropbox link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/n500ce2rs1pjbl3/AAA9n0YfHRhKvL8NMY_rzQNQa?dl=0
  2. Interview opportunities with Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England National Director for Health and Wellbeing, Professor Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director, London, for Public Health England or Chris Harrison, National Clinical Director for Cancer, are available upon request. Interviews also available with HCPs featuring in the advertising and case studies.
  3. Spokespeople quotes (see separate document for additional quotes):
  • Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “In my experience as a GP, many people experiencing breathlessness often brush it off as a symptom of being unfit, without knowing it could be a sign of something more serious. Coronary heart disease - the main cause of a heart attack - along with heart failure and heart rhythm disorders can all make someone feel out of breath and early diagnosis of these conditions is essential.  Research breakthroughs now mean that many causes of breathlessness can be effectively treated and we would advise anyone experiencing symptoms to speak to their GP.”
  • Steven Wibberley, chief operating officer at the British Lung Foundation said:  “Our recent report, Battle for Breath, highlighted the need to raise awareness among the millions who may be unaware they have lung disease. Early diagnosis and treatment is key to ensuring limited damage to lungs and better health outcomes. We are supporting Public Health England’s campaign to raise awareness that getting out of breath doing the things you used to be able to do could be a sign of something more serious like lung disease. Feeling breathless doing everyday tasks is not a normal part of life and should be investigated by a doctor. We are asking people to 'Listen to your lungs' and try our online breath test and take any actions needed to improve health and overall quality of life.”
  • Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said“It is really encouraging to see the long-standing Be Clear on Cancer campaign continuing to help raise vital awareness of the crucial symptoms to look out for that could be a sign of lung cancer.  So many people may otherwise simply ‘shrug off’ something like a persistent cough, yet to do so can have potentially devastating consequences.  Anyone with a cough for three weeks or more should go and see their GP to get it checked.  You have nothing to lose by making the appointment and it could ultimately save your life.”
  1. The campaign includes national TV, radio, digital and out of home advertising, together with face to face events in venues such as shopping centres.
  2. Results to date indicate that Be Clear on Cancer is changing levels of public awareness. There are also early indications that clinical outcomes are improving. These are some of the statistically significant findings following the first national lung cancer campaign in 2012, when compared with the same period in the previous year:
  • Around 700 more people were diagnosed with lung cancer[x]
  • Around 400 more people had their cancer diagnosed at an early stage10
  • Around 300 additional patients had surgery as a first treatment of diagnosed lung cancer, giving them the best chance of prolonged survival10
  1. Findings from research on the breathlessness campaign showed that there were significant increases in spontaneous knowledge of what breathlessness could be a sign of:
  • Lung disease, up from 50% pre-campaign to 60% post-campaign[xi]
  • Heart disease, up from 42% pre-campaign to 52% post campaign11

Further details are given in a PHE/DH/NHS England letter at https://www.england.nhs.uk/commissioning/pub-hlth-res/

  1. NHS Wales will be running a campaign to raise awareness of a persistent cough as a symptom of lung cancer from 11th July to 11th August 2016, using Be Clear on Cancer materials.  The campaign will encourage people with the relevant symptoms to go to their GP, with the aim of diagnosing more cases of lung cancer at an earlier stage.  It will be the first time Be Clear on Cancer activity has run in Wales.  Further information is available at: cruk.org/lung-cancer-campaign-wales
  2. The British Lung Foundation (BLF) is running its ‘Listen to Your Lungs’ campaign throughout 2016 and 2017. This complements PHE’s campaign, and aims to increase awareness that daily, long-term breathlessness is not normal and can be a symptom of lung disease. 

The British Lung Foundation is inviting the public to take a quick online test that asks questions based around the Medical Research Council breathlessness scale. The scale assesses how out of breath people get when doing various activities. The test also asks about other factors such as exercise levels, weight, smoking, age and whether people are worried about getting out of breath. 

Find out more: www.blf.org.uk/breathtest  

  1. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival: 83% of those diagnosed at stage 1 (the earliest stage) will live for at least a year, dropping to only 17% amongst those diagnosed at stage 4 (the latest stage).[xii]
  2. Symptoms:
    1. A cough that has lasted 3 weeks or more could be a sign of lung disease, including cancer
    2. Getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do could be a sign of lung or heart disease, or even cancer
  3. Other symptoms of heart disease or lung disease (including lung cancer) include:
    1. A cough that has got worse or changes
    2. Frequent chest infections
    3. Coughing up blood
    4. Chest pain or shoulder pain
    5. Wheezing
    6. Feeling more tired than usual for some time
    7. Losing weight for no obvious reason

[1]Lung cancer is a form of lung disease, however, data collected on lung disease records lung cancer separately to other forms of the disease, such as COPD.



[i] Heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema/bronchitis were the three leading causes of death in men and amongst the six leading causes of death in women in England and Wales in 2012. (Source:  http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/mortality-statistics--deaths-registered-in-england-and-wales--series-dr-/2012/sty-causes-of-death.html

[ii] CQRS (Calculating Quality Reporting Service) and GPES (General Practice Extraction Service) database. Copyright © 2016, Re-used with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved. Figure is based on the number of people registered with a GP practice across CCGs in the East Midlands who were newly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2014.

[iii] CQRS (Calculating Quality Reporting Service) and GPES (General Practice Extraction Service) database - 2014/15 data as at end of June 2014. Copyright © 2016, Re-used with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved. Figure is based on the number of people registered with a GP practice across CCGs in the East Midlands who have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

[iv] CQRS (Calculating Quality Reporting Service) and GPES (General Practice Extraction Service) database - 2014/15 data as at end of June 2014. Copyright © 2016, Re-used with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved.  Figure is based on the number of people registered with a GP practice across CCGs in the East Midlands who have been diagnosed with Coronary Heart Disease

[v] Office for National Statistics (2016).   Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England (experimental statistics).  Access via: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/cancersurvivalbystageatdiagnosisforenglandexperimentalstatistics/adultsdiagnosed20122013and2014andfollowedupto2015 [Accessed 16 June 2016]

[vi] CQRS (Calculating Quality Reporting Service) and GPES (General Practice Extraction Service) database. Copyright © 2016, Re-used with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved. Figure is based on the number of people registered with a GP practice across CCGs in the East Midlands who died of lung cancer in 2014.

[vii] Incidence and mortality data supplied by NCRAS (National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service). Based on annual average 2010-2014.

[viii] NHS England.  OPM Evaluation of the NHS Breathlessness Pilots.  Access via: https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/MEpTB5rv9Aiz  [Accessed 23 June 2016]

[ix] British Heart Foundation (2015), Cardiovascular Disease Statistics. Access via: https://www.bhf.org.uk/publications/statistics/cvd-stats-2015[Accessed 14 June 2016]   

[x] Cancer Research UK.  Be Clear on Cancer.  Access via:  http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/early-diagnosis-activities/be-clear-on-cancer/lung-cancer-campaign [Accessed 28 June 2016]

[xi] Pre and post campaign surveys were carried out by TNS-BMRB; face –to- face interviews were conducted with approximately 300 men and women aged 50 plus at each stage in the pilot area East of England.  The pre survey took place during 29th December 2014 – 20th January 2015 and the post campaign stage took place 2nd March – 22nd March 2015.