Lung cancer symptoms being ignored

Categories: Care.

The research, which was commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society and carried out by Coyne Research, surveyed over 1,000 adults. 

This latest report reveals a number of barriers when it comes to the early detection of lung cancer which in turn can impact on survival rates and may be behind why the majority of lung cancer cases in Ireland continue to be diagnosed at a late stage. This includes a lack of awareness around the severity of the disease with just over a half of Irish adults unable to identify lung cancer as the leading cancer killer and a third of the public with three or more symptoms unconcerned about being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Lung health is rarely spoken of with 76 per cent of adults reporting that they have never had a conversation with their doctor or pharmacist on the topic. Further to this, 54 per cent of adults felt there were obstacles to going to their doctor about lung health, including fear (22%), expense (17%) and because they don’t think it is serious enough (19%). Over a fifth of adults (22%) and a third of smokers (32%) also said they would not go to their doctor as they would be afraid of what they would be told.

Despite this ambivalence to lung cancer, the disease continues to increase with 2,312 people diagnosed in Ireland in 2012. While the incidence in men is decreasing every year by one per cent, lung cancer in women continues to increase at a significant rate of two per cent each year. For the first time, lung cancer has now moved from 3rd place to 2nd place ahead of colorectal cancer when it comes to the most common cancers in Irish women*.

The majority of lung cancer patients are also diagnosed at a later stage when there may be fewer treatment options available. Between 2004 to 2008, 64 per cent of lung cancer patients were diagnosed at an advanced stage (stage three or stage four lung cancer)**. Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women comprising 18% of cancer deaths in women and 23% of cancer deaths in men during the period 2011-2012*.

Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager at the Irish Cancer Society said: “Lung health needs to be taken seriously – we need Irish people to start talking about it and to consider it important enough to take action. Lung cancer can be treated once it is diagnosed at an early stage but unfortunately too many people don’t go to their doctor at a time when it would be most beneficial for them. We need doctors and pharmacists to keep lung cancer front of mind and to encourage their patients to maintain good lung health. When it comes to lung cancer, awareness and early detection are the key to survival.”

The Irish Cancer Society, with support from Medtronic, has developed an Online Lung Health Checker (available at to help the public find out if their lungs are in a healthy condition. The Online Lung Health Checker, also provides users with a printable letter which they can bring along to their doctor to help explain any symptoms.

O’Hagan continued: “We are inviting members of the public to take our Online Lung Health Checker which is available on our website and to encourage friends and family to do the same. This will help you consider your lung health and to examine symptoms you may be experiencing. We want Irish people to take action and this is a simple way to do so.”

Bronwyn Brophy, Vice President, Early Technologies with Medtronic said: “The findings from the Irish Cancer Society’s research are a wake-up call for those affected or potentially affected by lung cancer, an extremely damaging and common form of cancer in Ireland. There is a clear need for greater awareness in this area to support early detection and higher survival rates. As a global leader in medical technology, services and solutions, Medtronic strives to improve the health and lives of millions of people each year. We are committed to partnering in new ways and developing powerful solutions that deliver better patient outcomes, so we are extremely pleased to support the valuable work of the Cancer Society, particularly its innovative Online Lung Health Checker.”

With early detection, patients can have more effective treatment options and potential cures available to them. All patients can now be fast tracked through to early diagnosis and treatment through the Lung Cancer Rapid Access Clinics which are in operation in all eight of the designated cancer centres. This has resulted in a steady improvement in lung cancer survival from 10 per cent to 15 per cent over the last 15 years.

Anyone who is concerned about cancer should contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 to speak to a specialist cancer nurse who can offer information, advice and support. Visit for further information on lung cancer and support available, to take the Online Lung Health Checker and to view the infographic. Smokers looking to quit smoking can call the HSE Quit Team on Freephone 1800 201 203 or Freetext QUIT to 50100. Visit where support is available from smoking cessation counsellors.

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