Torbay Council’s Public Health Team is supporting Public Health England’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign which is encouraging people to go to their GP if they have symptoms of a persistent cough and inappropriate breathlessness.

Deputy Mayor and Executive Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Derek Mills, said: “This campaign is aimed at men and women aged 50 and over, as well as their family and friends. People over 50 are most at risk of having undiagnosed respiratory illness and make up 97% of lung cancer diagnoses.

“If you are getting out of breath doing things you used to be able to do, it could be a sign of lung or heart disease, or even cancer. Also, if you have had a cough for three weeks or more, it could be a sign of lung disease, including cancer. So please don’t ignore it, tell your doctor.”

A persistent cough or inappropriate breathlessness during everyday activities such as vacuuming or mowing the lawn could be symptoms of a variety of conditions, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and, in the case of breathlessness, heart disease. Diagnosing lung and heart disease early makes them more treatable. This can help tackle premature mortality – for example, around 68% of lung cancer patients in England are diagnosed at a late stage1, when curative treatment is not possible.

Earlier diagnosis can also help with the management of some conditions, such as COPD, and thereby improve the quality of life for people living with them. The high incidence of and premature mortality from lung and heart disease make it important to encourage people with relevant symptoms to seek help promptly.

Over 1 million people are diagnosed with COPD, and an estimated further 1 million people are living with undiagnosed COPD3. COPD causes around 115,000 emergency admissions and around 24,000 deaths each year. 10% of emergency admissions for COPD are in people whose condition is undiagnosed.

• Around 36,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and around 28,400 people die from the disease each year4.
• Over 70,000 people died from heart disease in 2014

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, comparing figures with the same period in the previous year:
Around 700 more people were diagnosed with lung cancer.
Around 400 more people had their cancer diagnosed at an early stage.
Around 300 additional patients had surgery as a first treatment of diagnosed lung cancer, giving them the best chance of prolonged survival.

Research on the breathlessness campaign showed that there were significant increases in spontaneous knowledge that breathlessness could be a sign of:
lung disease – up from 50% pre-campaign to 60% post-campaign.
heart disease – up from 42% pre-campaign to 52% post-campaign.

For further information on Public Health’s Be Clear on Cancer campaign please visit

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