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Your questions answered

Need further advice? Use the following frequently asked questions for general guidance. For concerns specific to you, please speak to your GP.

Questions about symptoms
I’ve got a cough that won’t go away. What should I do?
If you’ve had it for three weeks or more, or if your long-standing cough has changed, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Chances are it’s nothing serious, but if it’s lung cancer, the time to know is now.  Why? You’re much more likely to survive early stage lung cancer than late stage lung cancer.
I’m worried about my dad. He’s had a terrible cough for ages and I think he’s scared to go to his doctor.
Please encourage your dad to make an appointment with his GP, and remember that you, or someone else, can go with him to his appointment.
Chances are it’s nothing serious, but a cough for more than three weeks, or a change to a long-standing cough, could be a warning sign of something more serious such as lung cancer. 
You could also forward your dad a link to this website for more information, if you think that would encourage him to make an appointment.
I’ve smoked for years and I’m always coughing. Will my doctor really take me seriously?
Yes.  If you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks, or if your long-standing cough has changed, please make an appointment with your GP now. Your doctor will make the time to see you; they will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical examination. 
GPs follow national guidelines when referring patients for tests; if you have any of the symptoms required for an urgent chest x-ray and your GP is worried that lung cancer is a possibility, you will be referred to your local clinic or hospital for an appointment within 2 weeks.  Your GP may also refer you for blood tests
I’ve recently noticed that I get out of breath easily, should I be concerned?
If this is something new or has changed recently, please see your GP straight away. Chances are it’s nothing serious, but it’s better to know now.
Questions about seeing your GP
What questions should I ask my GP?
You are free to ask whatever questions you feel are important to you.
The following questions may be useful. Feel free to print this list and take it with you to your appointment.
Will I be referred for tests?
Where can I have the tests?
What will the tests involve?
Can I bring someone with me?
How long will I need to wait for the tests?
How will I hear about my appointment?
How soon will I hear the results?
How will hear about the results (e.g. by phone, letter)?
What should I tell my friends and family?
Who can support me?
Please remember that you can take someone with you to your appointment, this can help you to make sure you ask all the questions you would like to
What will happen at my GP appointment?
Your GP will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical examination. GPs follow national guidelines when referring patients for tests; if you have any of the symptoms required for an urgent chest x-ray and your GP is worried that lung cancer is a possibility, you will be referred to your local clinic or hospital for an appointment within 2 weeks.  Your GP may also refer you for blood tests.
Questions about lung cancer
What are my risks of getting lung cancer?
Like most cancers, lung cancer mainly affects older people. It is rare in people younger than 40, and the rates of lung cancer rise sharply with age. Lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 70-74 years.
Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking causes 9 out of 10 cases. This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.
How can I reduce my risks of getting lung cancer?
9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, so if you smoke, the best way to reduce your chances of getting lung cancer and other serious conditions is to stop smoking as soon as possible.
However long you have been smoking, it is always worth quitting. Every year that you do not smoke, your risk of getting serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, will decrease. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer falls to half that of some who smokes.
NHS Smokefree can offer free advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call them on 0300 123 1044, or visit their website.  Your GP or pharmacist can also give you help and advice about giving up smoking.
Research shows that eating a low-fat, high-fibre diet, including at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, and plenty of whole grains, can help reduce your risk of lung cancer, as well as other types of cancer and heart disease. Find out more information about diet and cancer.
There is also strong evidence to suggest that regular exercise can lower the risk of developing lung cancer and other types of cancer. Adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week.
Find out more information about health and fitness.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is caused when cells lining your lungs multiply out of control to form a lump called a tumour.  The abnormal cells involved determine the type of lung cancer you have.
Your lungs are two large sponge-like organs in your chest, which absorb oxygen into your blood from the air you breathe in, and remove unwanted carbon dioxide from your blood in the air you breathe out.  This is their basic function.
In your chest your windpipe divides into two tubes (bronchi), each leading into a lung.  The bronchi divide into branches (bronchioles), which have air sacs (alveoli) at their ends, where your blood exchanges carbon dioxide for the oxygen your body needs to function.
I’ve heard that most people with lung cancer die.  Is that true?
These days the majority of people with lung cancer survive, if it is caught at an early stage.  The challenge is spotting this early.  Early stage lung cancers can have symptoms, but they are more likely to be picked up by a scan.  
Unfortunately, many lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage when they are much harder to treat. 
Can I be routinely screened for lung cancer?
Screening means testing people for early stages of a disease before they have any symptoms. Lung cancer screening uses an advanced x-ray technique, called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scanning, to find lung cancer before symptoms develop. 
There is no NHS national screening programme for lung cancer yet, because research is still establishing whether it would be effective.  Following research in the US, US chest physicians and oncologists now recommend LDCT screening for people in high risk groups.
If you’re worried that you’re at increased risk of lung cancer, it’s worth discussing your options with your GP.  You may be eligible to participate in a research trial, and your GP may also suggest that you have lung cancer screening privately.

Questions about symptoms

I’ve got a cough that won’t go away. What should I do?

If you’ve had it for three weeks or more, or if your long-standing cough has changed, make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Chances are it’s nothing serious, but if it’s lung cancer, the time to know is now.  Why? You’re much more likely to survive early stage lung cancer than late stage lung cancer.

 

I’m worried about my dad. He’s had a terrible cough for ages and I think he’s scared to go to his doctor.

Please encourage your dad to make an appointment with his GP, and remember that a friend or family member can go with him to his appointment.

Chances are it’s nothing serious but a cough for more than three weeks, or a change to a long-standing cough, could be a warning sign of something more serious such as lung cancer. 

You could also forward your dad a link to this website for more information, if you think that would encourage him to make an appointment.

 

I’ve smoked for years and I’m always coughing. Will my doctor really take me seriously?

Yes.  If you’ve had a cough for more than three weeks, or if your long-standing cough has changed, please make an appointment with your GP now. Your doctor will make the time to see you; they will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical examination. 

GPs follow national guidelines when referring patients for tests; if you have any of the symptoms required for an urgent chest x-ray and your GP is worried that lung cancer is a possibility, you will be referred to your local clinic or hospital for an appointment within 2 weeks.  Your GP may also refer you for blood tests.

 

I’ve recently noticed that I get out of breath easily, should I be concerned?

If this is something new or has changed recently, please see your GP straight away. Chances are it’s nothing serious, but it’s better to know now.

 

Questions about seeing your GP

What questions should I ask my GP?

You are free to ask whatever questions you feel are important to you.

The following questions may be useful. Feel free to print this list and take it with you to your appointment.

Please remember that you can take someone with you to your appointment, this can help you to make sure you ask all the questions you would like to.

 

What will happen at my GP appointment?

Your GP will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical examination. GPs follow national guidelines when referring patients for tests; if you have any of the symptoms required for an urgent chest x-ray and your GP is worried that lung cancer is a possibility, you will be referred to your local clinic or hospital for an appointment within 2 weeks.  Your GP may also refer you for blood tests.

 

Questions about lung cancer

What are my risks of getting lung cancer?

Like most cancers, lung cancer mainly affects older people. It is rare in people younger than 40, and the rates of lung cancer rise sharply with age. Lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people aged 70-74 years.

Although people who have never smoked can develop lung cancer, smoking causes 9 out of 10 cases. This is because smoking involves regularly inhaling a number of different toxic substances.

 

How can I reduce my risks of getting lung cancer?

9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking, so if you smoke the best way to reduce your chances of getting lung cancer and other serious conditions, is to stop smoking as soon as possible.

However long you have been smoking, it is always worth quitting. Every year that you do not smoke, your risk of getting serious illnesses, such as lung cancer, will decrease. After 10 years of not smoking, your chances of developing lung cancer falls to half that of some who smokes.

NHS Smokefree can offer free advice and encouragement to help you quit smoking. You can call them on 0300 123 1044, or visit their website.  Your GP or pharmacist can also give you help and advice about giving up smoking.

In general, maintaining a healthy weight, staying within government guidelines on alchol, eating a healthy, balanced diet and keeping active can help reduce your risk of some cancers and heart disease.  Find out more information about diet and cancer from Cancer Research UK,  Macmillan, and the NHS

 

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is caused when cells lining your lungs multiply out of control to form a lump called a tumour.  The abnormal cells involved determine the type of lung cancer you have.

Your lungs are two large sponge-like organs in your chest, which absorb oxygen into your blood from the air you breathe in, and remove unwanted carbon dioxide from your blood in the air you breathe out.  This is their basic function.

In your chest your windpipe divides into two tubes (bronchi), each leading into a lung.  The bronchi divide into branches (bronchioles), which have air sacs (alveoli) at their ends, where your blood exchanges carbon dioxide for the oxygen your body needs to function.

 

I’ve heard that most people with lung cancer die.  Is that true?

These days the majority of people with lung cancer survive, if it is caught at a very early stage.  The challenge is spotting it this early. 

Unfortunately, many lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage when they are much harder to treat. 

 

Can I be routinely screened for lung cancer?

At the moment there is no national screening programme for lung cancer in the UK.  The UK Health Technology Assessment programme is currently assessing tests that could be used to screen for lung cancer.  You can find detailed information about research into lung cancer screening from Cancer Research UK.​