Women 'underestimate the risks of lung cancer'

In collaboration with the Press Association

The majority of women are unaware of the risks of lung cancer, according to a new survey by the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF).

Around four in five women surveyed did not realise that lung cancer kills more women than any other cancer in the UK.

Many respondents mistakenly believed that breast and cervical cancer caused more deaths, despite lung cancer claiming more lives each year than both these diseases combined.

Some 15,000 women in the UK die from lung cancer every year, while breast and cervical cancer together claim a total of 13,000 lives.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include a constant cough, fatigue and weight loss.

Despite most women being able to identify the warning signs, almost a fifth of those surveyed said they would not visit their doctor if they spotted these symptoms.

And one in 10 smokers - who are most at risk from the disease - said they would not visit their doctor if they developed signs of lung cancer.

But many said they would be more likely to book an appointment if they knew they could be tested for a quick diagnosis, and that effective treatment is available.

Dr Marianne Nicolson, a consultant medical oncologist at Aberdeen NHS Grampian, said: "Early diagnosis saves lives and the earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the better the chance of cure. This is especially relevant for women, who typically respond better to active treatment than men.

"It is important that women appreciate the risk of lung cancer, reduce their risk by stopping smoking where that is an issue and, through recognition of the danger signs, seek medical advice immediately if they believe they have the relevant symptoms."

More than 2,000 women took part in the survey, which marks the launch of the RCLCF's Women Against Lung Cancer campaign.

The findings revealed that many women do not appreciate the poor prognosis faced by lung cancer sufferers.

Just 9 per cent of women with lung cancer will be alive five years after diagnosis - but more than four in five women believed the five-year survival rate was between 20-40 per cent.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Spotting the early signs of cancer can make all the difference to the chance of surviving the disease so it's very worrying that so few women would go to their doctor if they noticed potential lung cancer symptoms.

"Every year over 40,000 men and women are diagnosed with the disease so it's vital that if people have a cough that's lasted longer than a couple of weeks, a change to an existing cough, unusual breathlessness, weight loss, chest or shoulder pain or if they are coughing up blood they should get checked out by their doctor immediately.

"If anyone has concerns they can speak to a Cancer Research UK nurse on 0808 800 4040 or visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk."

Copyright Press Association 2011