“You’re not wasting anyone’s time by getting symptoms checked” is the advice from healthcare professionals in support of the latest national Be Clear on Cancer campaign which raises awareness of lung disease and lung cancer.
Everyone gets a cough now and then or can get short of breath sometimes, especially if you’ve done something energetic that you’re not used to, like running. But if you get out of breath doing everyday things that you used to be able to do, like vacuuming or mowing the lawn or have a cough that doesn’t go away, tell your doctor.
Anne Snow, Lead Cancer Nurse as St Mary’s Hospital and her team care for people from the point of diagnosis through to their treatment and ongoing care. Anne said:
“It can be so easy to put your symptoms down to ‘a smokers cough’ or ‘just getting older’ but if you start to experience breathlessness or you develop a cough that doesn’t seem to be getting any better, make an appointment with your GP and get it checked for peace of mind. It’s probably nothing serious, but if it is a lung disease, such as lung cancer or COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), finding it early makes it much more treatable.”
2 Island cancer patients know only too well how important it is to get symptoms checked without delay. Shirley, 61 from Shanklin had a heavy cold and cough last Christmas and simply put it down to the virus that everyone else seemed to have at that time. But when she noticed a tiny spot of blood in phlegm that she had coughed up she thought she might have popped a blood vessel. But when it happened a second time Shirley made an appointment with her GP.
“I knew that coughing up blood wasn’t right and my GP said I had done the right thing in getting checked and she sent me for a chest x-ray. The x-ray found a shadow on my lung and following further tests, I was given the news that I had cancer. The words are devastating. But you have to face it, as hard as it is, it’s not going away.”
Shirley underwent a number of tests and procedures at St. Mary’s Hospital and at Portsmouth Hospital and in June of this year, Shirley underwent keyhole surgery to remove part of her lung and lymph nodes. A course of chemotherapy started in July and is due to finish in September. The amazing support that Shirley has had from her family has got her through.
“I am so lucky. We caught it early. And with the support and kindness of everyone involved in my treatment and care, I cannot thank them enough. I have been so scared at times but they take the fear away. There is always someone on the end of the phone, the staff are amazing, they have been with me every step of the way. I now say to everyone I know, please, please get checked if something isn’t right.”
Matthew, 52 from Ventnor also picked up what he thought was a common cough and when his wife also developed a cough, he wasn’t too worried. But when Matthew’s wife got better and six weeks on Matthew was still coughing, he felt slightly concerned as he has a family history of lung cancer. Matthew went along to see his GP to see if he could get some antibiotics but his GP sent him for an x-ray which confirmed the cough to be a symptom of cancer.
“When my GP phoned and asked me to come in and see them I immediately feared the worst. When you are told you have cancer it is devastating. Despite my family history I still didn’t think anything would be wrong. I even delayed having my x-ray by a week as I still hoped the cough would go on its own. The first thing I asked my GP is whether I had a fighting chance.”
Matthew’s tumour was successfully removed in May of last year and since that time he has had chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Matthew is now back working full time. He said:
“It is so important to get symptoms checked as soon as possible. It gave me that fighting chance.”