Lung cancer incidence could double by 2045

People urged to know signs and symptoms
  • Deborah Condon

Over 2,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in Ireland and the incidence of this disease could double by 2045, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has warned.

The ICS recently launched its annual lung cancer awareness campaign and it warned that recent research by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) suggests that lung cancer incidence could double by 2045, with women particularly affected.

In fact, if increases in female lung cancer rates and decreases in male rates continue, female cases may significantly outnumber male cases, with projections showing a 176% increase in female cases.

"In order to address this increase, we must concentrate now more than ever on detecting lung cancer early. When lung cancer is diagnosed at stage I or II, two-thirds of patients survive at least a year compared with just one-quarter who are diagnosed with a later stage lung cancer. When lung cancer is diagnosed late, treatment options are limited, and survival rates remain very low," explained ICS information development manager, Aoife McNamara.

She emphasised the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of lung cancer, and to get checked out if there are concerns.

"If a person finds a lump in their breast, they know that they need go to a doctor or a breast clinic straight away. Similarly, if someone has difficulty breathing, is wheezing, or has a persistent cough, it's really important to talk to a doctor immediately," Ms McNamara said.

She also expressed major concern about the fact that in Ireland, over 50% of lung cancer patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage, and 25% are diagnosed in Emergency Departments (EDs).

"There's a worrying trend developing where patients are entering EDs with symptoms to be told for the first time that they have cancer. This is particularly prevalent in lung cancer. We are also seeing that older patients and those from areas of higher deprivation are more likely to be diagnosed in an ED," she noted.

However, Ms McNamara insisted that this trend does not need to continue and ‘being lung aware and conscious of symptoms' can lead to earlier diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:
-Difficulty breathing
-A persistent cough or a change in a long-term cough
-Repeated chest infections that do not go away even after antibiotics
-A hoarse voice
-Coughing up blood-stained phlegm
-Pain in the chest especially when you breathe in or cough
-Loss of appetite or weight loss
-Difficulty swallowing.

This month, the ICS is urging people to take its free online lung health checker quiz, which is available here. It includes a printable summary which can be taken to a GP.

For more information on lung cancer, you can also call the ICS Nurseline on 1800 200 700, email or drop into one of the ICS's13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide.

More information is also available here.

*Pictured is the MEGA lungs, an interactive and educational exhibit that offers people a chance to see firsthand how the lungs work

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