New Normal. Same Cancer.

Since the start of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, there has been a significant drop in cancer pathology and surgery and a 50% decrease in GP referrals to lung cancer specialists [1]. But cancer cases aren't disappearing, they're going undetected. In this 'new normal' of face masks and social distancing, we're joining patient organisations across the country to encourage you to talk to your GP about any new, persistent or unexplained symptoms and re-book any missed medical appointments. Early diagnosis is critical to improving treatment options and survival rates.

Don't Wait, Investigate.

Symptoms of lung disease and lung cancer can be vague and people often put it down to signs of ageing or a lack of fitness. Early diagnosis is critical to receiving best-practice care and treatment. If you’re experiencing a persistent, unexplained cough or breathlessness, talk to your GP. A delay in diagnosis can result in the condition becoming more serious or even life-threatening.

If you have had an unexplained cough that has lasted more than three weeks, please seek immediate advice from a healthcare professional. Don’t wait. Contact your doctor. Get checked.

Take two minutes to complete the Lung Health Checklist to identify if you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of lung disease or lung cancer.

Getting more breathless than your peers

Chest tightness or wheeze

Frequent chest infections

Chest pain, fatigue

Sudden, unexplained weight loss

What is a cough?

Coughing is a necessary part of our body’s normal cleaning routine for the lungs. We cough to clear unwanted mucus or phlegm from our airways, and to remove any foreign particles such as dust.

The most common cause of a cough is a viral upper respiratory tract infection or cold. Usually, the cough caused by a cold clears up within three weeks. When coughing lasts longer than this, it may be considered a persistent cough and you should make an appointment with your GP to investigate.

When should I see a doctor?

Coughing becomes a problem when it is unexplained and persistent (for more than three weeks) or when it is accompanied by other symptoms such as breathlessness or results in complications such as pain, fatigue and trouble sleeping. Coughing may indicate the presence of an underlying medical condition. For some people there can be an underlying serious lung disease present, such as lung cancer. It’s important to see your GP to find out why you may be coughing.

You should seek the advice of your GP if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • A persistent cough lasting more than three weeks
  • Coughing up mucus, phlegm or blood
  • Pain or fainting caused by coughing bouts
  • Trouble sleeping at night because of coughing
  • Any worrying symptoms such as breathlessness or chest pain
  • Any concern you may have about the cause of the cough.

Other common symptoms of lung disease and lung cancer are listed below.

New normal for patients

There is no denying the pandemic has profoundly affected healthcare. For people living with lung cancer, it’s important to continue your regular treatment and care in this ‘new normal’ to achieve the best outcomes.

Top tips

1. Schedule telehealth appointments

It’s important you continue to access your usual healthcare. You can arrange appointments with your healthcare team, including your GP, via video calling software or telephone.

2. Discuss your ‘new normal’ treatment plan with your team

Talk with your treating healthcare team about the potential implications of the pandemic on your cancer care. Specifically changes to supportive and palliative care, access to research and clinical trials, and modifications to treatment schedules.

3. Prioritise mental and emotional health 

Living with a lung cancer diagnosis can bring about a range of emotions. During these uncertain and changing times it is important to prioritise your mental health. Have regular discussions with your treating healthcare team or GP about your mental health and emotional wellbeing, including steps you can take to proactively care for and manage your mental health.

Anyone can get lung disease. It affects almost 1 in 3 Australians. Check your lungs today.

1. IQVIA Medibus, May 2020.