3 December 2015
November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Macmillan Lung Clinical Nurse Specialist, Monica Hugh, who works at Queen’s Hospital in Burton-on-Trent, is encouraging residents across the county to get behind the initiative and educate themselves on the signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
Symptoms may include any of the following, advises Monica:
- a continuing cough, or change in a long-standing cough
- a chest infection that doesn’t get better
- becoming breathless and wheezing
- coughing up blood-stained phlegm (sputum)
- chest or shoulder pain
- a hoarse voice
- a dull ache or a sharp pain when you cough or take a deep breath
- loss of appetite and loss of weight
- difficulty swallowing
- feeling extremely tired (fatigue) and lethargy
- the ends of the fingers becoming larger or looking more rounded (clubbing)
- swelling of the lymph nodes (glands) in the neck area.
It is worth noting that if you have any of these symptoms for more than three weeks, it’s important to have them checked by your GP but all of these symptoms may also be caused by illnesses other than cancer.
Often, people want to know if they give up smoking, is it possible for their lungs to recover. Monica explains: 'It depends on how long they have smoked for and how many cigarettes they have smoked. Quitting smoking can have many benefits for patients following a diagnosis of lung cancer in regard to recovery from surgery and tolerance of other anti-cancer treatments and we do offer services for patients to help them give up smoking.'
Monica’s role at Macmillan Cancer Support involves supporting lung cancer patients and their families throughout their diagnosis. Monica says: 'We meet patients pre-diagnosis when they attend the urgent cancer referral clinic and continue to support them through diagnosis and treatment. We also see patients who are newly diagnosed as the result of an emergency hospital admission as up to 30 per cent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed through this route. We have an open access service where patients can contact us with any concerns and we actively contact them to make sure they have understood information given and to ascertain any concerns they may have. In addition to our work with outpatients we also see current patients who are admitted to hospital with problems related to their lung cancer and continue to support them.'
Monica and the team also work closely with a lot of other services such as the Macmillan therapies team, made up of occupational therapists, physiotherapists and palliative care teams in the hospital and community.
Monica adds: 'The best part of the role is feeling that we can make some difference to patients and their families going through one of the most stressful times of their lives. Unfortunately, we cannot change what is happening to them but we can ensure that they have access to all the appropriate care and support to relieve some of the distress associated with a diagnosis of lung cancer. The patients and families all recognise Macmillan Cancer Support and seem to feel reassured that they will have access to support and other services to assist them.'
If you’re affected by cancer, you may know it can feel like a lonely and worrying time. It’s important to know that there is support there for you. If you have any questions about cancer, visit: www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 00 00. We’re here to talk to you.