In the lead-up to Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November, the 'future face' of women's cancer is being revealed. While new data published last month by Cancer Research UK suggests the number of women dying from breast cancer in the UK is in decline – expected to drop almost 30 percent by 2030 – the number of women dying from lung cancer is on the increase.
Liz Darlison, Macmillan Consultant Nurse Specialist, University Hospitals of Leicester, says, "While the statistics paint a frightening picture, there's a great deal that can be done to help ensure women are diagnosed earlier, treated earlier and live longer. By raising awareness of the tell-tale signs – for example, a persistent cough that lasts longer than three weeks – there's the potential to save thousands of lives every year."
Lung cancer currently accounts for around one fifth (21 per cent) of all cancer deaths in women, and kills more women each year than breast cancer, uterine cancer or ovarian cancer. Each year, Lung Cancer Awareness Month provides a vital platform from which to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, and the need to diagnose it early. Lung Cancer Awareness Month will launch on the 1st November 2012.
"Once considered a man's disease, we need to get the message out that anyone can get lung cancer," commented Paula Chadwick, Chief Executive at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. "Although it remains a devastating disease for many, if caught early, it can be treated more effectively."
The success of initiatives such as the pink campaigns for breast cancer, a disease for which deaths among women are expected to fall almost 30% over the next 20 years, highlights how 'awareness months' can really help to turn-the-tide. But even though lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, it fails to get the attention it deserves:
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in 2011, over 2,000 articles were reported in the UK media – three times greater than the number published on lung cancer during its awareness month.
In the last 12 months, breast cancer was discussed or commented on 180 times by Parliament, compared to just 59 times for lung cancer – three times more mentions.
"Although most women know that a lump in their breast could be a sign of cancer, awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer remains comparatively low," said Dr. Mick Peake, Consultant Respiratory Physician at the Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, and National Clinical Lead for Lung Cancer.
"No doubt linked to this is the fact that patients in the UK are diagnosed at a later stage in their disease and, as a result, has significantly worse lung cancer survival rates compared to other major European countries.More needs to be done to raise awareness of the increasing incidence of lung cancer in women and to encourage early diagnosis – catch it early and it can be cured!"