Persistent cough 'could be lung cancer warning'

media captionWatch one of the Department of Health's new TV advertisements as part of the lung cancer awareness campaign

The public should be vigilant about persistent coughs as they could be a sign of lung cancer, a new government advertising drive is warning.

The campaign, which is being run in TV, radio, print and online media, recommends people with coughs lasting three weeks visit their GP.

Research has shown the public are much more aware that lumps and bleeding are warning signs of cancer than a cough.

But the ads make clear persistent coughs should also raise alarm bells.

The push is being backed by celebrities including comedian and actor Ricky Gervais, TV star Linda Robson and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

'Horrible disease'

Cancer tsar Professor Sir Mike Richards said: "It is vital that cancer patients get treated quickly so they have the best chance of surviving."

Lung cancer affects 33,000 people in England every year, with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55.

But when diagnosed at an early stage, as many as 80% are alive five years after diagnosis - compared with 7% if it is spotted late on.

Ricky Gervais, whose mother died of lung cancer at the age of 74, said: "It's devastating when you see someone you love dying from lung cancer.

"It's a horrible, horrible disease. My mother's death was very sudden and you can't help wondering if things would have been different had it been spotted earlier."

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