- New research (published today) highlights misbeliefs and serious lack of symptom awareness around Ireland’s biggest cancer killer
- Charity renews call on Government for National Lung Cancer Screening programme and launches innovative new mobile Snapchat technology to raise public awareness
- The Big Check Up 2023 action plan launched as part of annual International Lung Cancer Awareness Month Campaign
Only 5% of Irish people are aware that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths among women, while just 20% know that it is the cancer that claims the most lives among men.
The figures were revealed in new research commissioned by the Marie Keating Foundation who have today issued a stark warning that Ireland is not making satisfactory progress on lung cancer, stating that “lung cancer death rates remain shockingly high, while symptom awareness is alarmingly low”.
Lung cancer continues to claim more lives annually, among both men and women, than any other cancer, with 1,850 people dying from the disease in Ireland each year. However the new research, compiled for the charity by Empathy reveals that less than one third of the population (29%) feel they know the signs and symptoms to watch out for in relation to lung cancer, while more than a third of adults (36%) admit that not being aware of the symptoms of lung cancer would deter them from getting symptoms checked.
Today, as International Lung Cancer Awareness Month begins, the Marie Keating Foundation, one of the leading voices in Ireland for early detection, claims it doesn’t have to be this way, and is calling on the Government, stakeholders and the public to ‘change how we see lung cancer’.
As part of its ‘Big Check Up 2023’ campaign, the charity has outlined a three-point action plan that it says will save countless lives now and in the future.
The action plan aims to:
1) change how we see lung cancer, countering the misbelief that there are more dangerous cancers for both men and women and highlighting the fact that lung cancer still claims more lives than any other cancer;
2) raise lung cancer symptom awareness, harnessing the use of innovative, specially developed, new mobile technology in partnership with Snapchat, to spotlight symptoms and urge people to get checked;
3) renew pressure on the Government to introduce a National Lung Cancer Screening programme, similar to breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening, to help save lives.
Launching the campaign, Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation, said, “It’s been five years since we last carried out this significant research into public attitudes and awareness around lung cancer and very little has changed in that time. I’m deeply disappointed to say that in Ireland today, lung cancer death rates remain shockingly high, largely due to late diagnosis, while symptom awareness is alarmingly low and a stigma still persists in relation to lung cancer.
“The time has come to change how people see lung cancer, to raise public awareness and encourage those with lung cancer signs and symptoms to get checked, because early detection, combined with all of the new treatments available, significantly improves chances of positive outcomes.”
Currently in Ireland, the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is just 24%. This is extremely low compared with other five-year survival rates for common cancers such as, Prostate: 93%, Breast: 88% and Colorectal: 66%. Furthermore, the National Cancer Registry of Ireland has predicted that rates of lung cancer will rise rapidly by 2045, with lung cancer diagnoses expected to increase by as much as 176% among women, and by 94% among men.
Today, the Marie Keating Foundation also renewed pressure on the Government to introduce a national lung cancer screening programme, similar to existing breast, bowel and cervical cancer screening, to help save lives. The Empathy research reveals huge public support for this with almost three quarters (72%) of adults saying they would be likely to participate in a lung cancer screening programme, with people’s intention to do so increasing with age.
Ms Yeates continued: “More people in Ireland, both men and women, die from lung cancer than from any other cancer and these rates are set to increase exponentially by 2045. Without a national lung screening programme, we are missing the opportunity to catch lung cancer before it is too late. This will equate to more lives lost. We have to look at the evidence and respond to the many calls to implement lung cancer screening to improve earlier diagnosis of lung cancer in Ireland.”
The Big Check Up campaign to help change how we see lung cancer also harnesses mobile technology. In an innovative move, The Marie Keating Foundation has partnered with mobile messaging app Snapchat to develop a new screen filter highlighting key lung cancer signs and symptoms. When used, the new AR filter displays information on lung cancer indicators to watch out for. The charity hopes to engage with a wider audience through the use of the innovative technology which invites users to encourage anyone they know with possible symptoms, including a cough that lingers for more than three weeks, to get checked.
Supporting the campaign, Professor Jarushka Naidoo, Professor of Medical Oncology and Consultant Medical Oncologist at Beaumont RCSI Cancer Centre, Lung Cancer Chair for Cancer Trials Ireland and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University said:
“Early detection can save lives. When lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, there is a better chance of the ability to deliver treatments with the intent of cure. We have seen an explosion of new treatment options for patients with lung cancer. We need to give patients a chance to receive these therapies, by identifying lung cancer earlier, and more able to tolerate treatment. Evidence from other countries shows that early detection programmes can pick up lung cancer early, and result in improved patient outcomes.”
Lung cancer patient, Ted O’Driscoll, a Dublin pharmacist who was diagnosed, aged 54, in 2017 with stage 3 lung cancer, advises anyone with symptoms to get them checked early. He said, “I was relatively symptomless. My only symptoms were breathlessness when I was on holiday, which I attributed to the heat. When I came home, I had a vague pain in my chest when I bent down, which I happened to mention to a friend who was a doctor. He encouraged me to go to my GP, and if I hadn’t acted on his advice it could have been too late for me.
“I want to encourage people to get any possible symptoms checked early and I also want to stress that it is possible to live a good life throughout a cancer journey, with the help of magnificent doctors and modern medicines. I was diagnosed 6 years ago and have welcomed two grandsons into the world since then and been on many holidays and am enjoying life as I should.”
The Big Check Up is supported by Astra Zeneca, MSD, Pfizer, Roche and Takeda.
For more information, please visit www.mariekeating.ie
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