As lung cancer pathways are found to be amongst most delayed due to COVID-19, experts launch Don’t Delay campaign

During UK Radon Awareness Week (1st – 7th Nov), experts from the UK Radon Association are highlighting the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on lung cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment times and urging members of the public not to delay taking steps to protect their lungs

  • A UK Lung Cancer Coalition report suggests that lung cancer is one of the worst affected cancer pathways due to a combination of factors, including overlapping symptoms with COVID-19 and specific pressures on respiratory health-care services caused by the pandemic. (Source)
  • According to an article published in the British Journal of Cancer, the pandemic is having profound effects on both diagnosis and treatment strategies
  • Don’t Delay campaign urges public to test homes for radon, the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and to see their GP if they develop lung cancer symptoms
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is responsible for over 1100 deaths in the UK every year. (Source)

“During the first wave of the pandemic, public fear of engaging with health services, halting of the national programme of lung cancer screening pilots, and restricted access to diagnostic tests contributed to a 75% drop in urgent lung cancer referrals,” said Robert Rintoul, Chair of the UK Lung Cancer Coalition Clinical Advisory Group (Source). “Guidance to stay at home with a cough, a key symptom of lung cancer, also caused further confusion among the general public. As a result of the reduction in referrals we are now seeing an increase in late-stage presentations which will potentially lead to hundreds of additional deaths, reversing the significant progress that has been achieved in improving lung cancer survival over the last 10–15 years.”

In August 2021, the NHS launched its ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign with the aim of persuading people exhibiting possible lung cancer symptoms to contact their GP.

To further enhance this message, the UK Radon Association is today launching its Don’t Delay campaign.

Rebecca Coates, Chair of UK Radon Association said, “Lung cancer is often still thought of as a smoker’s disease, however sadly rates in non-smokers are increasing. Lung cancer is not the immediate thought for a non-smoker with a persistent cough, even less so whilst COVID-19 is a possible cause. That’s why we’ve launched the Don’t Delay campaign to raise awareness not only of the need to visit your GP if you have symptoms, but also that everyone should consider testing their home for radon to protect their lungs.”

Radon is a radioactive gas we can’t see, smell or taste. It comes from the rocks and soil found everywhere in the UK and can enter your building without you knowing. The only way to know if a building has a high radon level is to have it tested, which costs about £50.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, radon produces tiny radioactive particles in the air we breathe which damages our lung tissue and, over a long period, may cause lung cancer. The higher the level and the longer the period of exposure, the greater the risk.

At the recent UK Radon Symposium, keynote speaker Dr Aaron Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure Disease drew attention to findings that previous lung disease, including pneumonia, bronchitis and COPD, leads to an increased risk of an individual developing lung cancer in the future (Source). Dr Goodarzi warned that the number of patients suffering with so-called ‘Long Covid’ globally will have widespread ramifications on lung cancer rates.

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