Public health

Lung cancer awareness campaigns should focus on cough: study


People with lung cancer who present  to their doctor with an isolated cough survive twice as long as people who present with other symptoms, new research shows.

While the findings most likely relate to diagnosis at an earlier stage of disease, when patients are more amenable to curative treatment, they highlight that cough symptoms are a logical choice for public awareness campaigns, say the authors of the research from Doncaster Royal Infirmary, UK, in their brief communication published in Thorax.

The study of 3,800 people with lung cancer presenting to a single multidisciplinary team between 1997 and 2011 found that compared with the cough-alone symptom group, the risks of dying were significantly higher for the groups presenting with breathlessness (HR 1.86, n=359), systemic symptoms (HR 1.91, n=95), weight loss (HR 2.46, n=106), chest pain (HR 1.96, n=159), cough with breathlessness (HR 1.59 n=177), neurological symptoms (HR 3.07, n=155) and other symptom combinations (HR 2.05, n=1963).

“We do not yet know for certain that expediting the diagnosis in patients complaining of isolated cough in its various forms will improve outcomes, but these symptoms are certainly logical choices for awareness campaigns,” the research team concluded.

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