Health

'Speedy action saved my lungs and my life'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionLung cancer survivor Alan German: ''What might be quite an innocuous symptom needs to be looked at''

When Alan German suffered a bout of breathlessness on holiday, his wife rushed him to hospital.

Doctors found a tumour in his lungs and told him he had just six months to live without surgery, or 18 months with it.

But thanks to Diana's speedy action he got swift treatment and eight years later Alan is alive and well, although he is the first to admit that left to his own devices he would probably have ignored the initial symptoms, putting them down to a recent bout of flu.

"Looking back, I've often thought 'What would have happened if I'd be on my own?' and I think I would have ignored the symptoms that I got," he said.

"I never thought it could possibly be linked to lung cancer and I'm very, very lucky that it was picked up when it was."

Only about 10% of lung cancer patients are alive five years after diagnosis due to late detection with 35,000 people a year - 95 people a day - dying from lung cancer. It is the UK's biggest cancer killer

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation said people needed to become more aware in order to save lives.

New research though shows Alan is not alone in missing the signs of lung cancer. Research by the RPS and YouGov showed a worrying lack of awareness of key symptoms, especially during the winter cold and flu season.

Two thirds (66%) of the 2,294 questioned in the survey said they were likely to confuse some of the key symptoms of lung cancer symptoms with a cough, cold or nasty bout of flu.

Only 33% thought a cough was a warning sign of lung cancer, with just 11% specifically mentioning a persistent cough, which is a crucial symptom.

Just under half of those surveyed (48%) said breathlessness was a warning sign, whilst only 29% stated coughing up blood/blood in phlegm as important, with 15% mentioning chest or lung pain and 10% mentioning weight loss.

"If you don't recognise a symptom is important, then you won't realise you need help," said Graham Phillips, community pharmacist and member of the RPS.

He warned that people with a persistent cough should seek advice from their pharmacist: "Early detection of lung cancer saves lives. When symptoms are present and recognised at an early stage, treatment is much more likely to be successful. "

Diana said swift action had certainly helped them.

"I thought I would be on my own within a year and I was wrong and I am delighted," she said. "We have ended up with a happy story and we are very lucky."

Alan, 59 from Nottinghamshire, said it had never occurred to him that he might be ill.

"The last thing I thought about was cancer, particularly lung cancer.

"The day before we'd been on a good 10 mile walk in the hills, no problems at all. Up until then, I'd never had any other symptoms such as coughing so this came completely out of the blue."

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites