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Respiratory Health 2020

Because lung cancer won’t wait

iStock / Getty Images Plus / YakobchukOlena

Paula Chadwick

Chief Executive, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

COVID-19 may dominate our headlines, our hospitals, our minds, but our priority remains the same – lung cancer and supporting the people who are living with it.

They say, when we’re faced with adversity, we find out who we really are.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. During those three decades, we have encountered many forms of adversity.

Our charity was founded in the face of opposition, the face of negativity, the face of hopelessness. Thirty years ago, only 17% of people with lung cancer survived for a year or more. If there was a suspicion that a patient had lung cancer, they were not referred to hospital. They were denied investigation.

There is a momentum behind lung cancer, and we must not lose focus. We will not lose focus. Too many lives depend on it.

Our founder, Professor Ray Donnelly, recalls speaking to a GP and member of the Parliamentary Health Committee at a Labour party conference who questioned why we needed more emphasis on lung cancer. ‘They all die, don’t they?’ was his retort.

But, as everyone else disregarded lung cancer and the people it affected, we prioritised it and them. And the same can be said now.

Our one and only focus

While everyone’s attention is firmly fixed on COVID-19, ours remains on lung cancer. It remains set on supporting those living with the disease. Because lung cancer does not care about COVID-19. It will not wait patiently for the pandemic to be over before striking or spreading. Just ask Vicky.

Vicky has been receiving treatment for incurable lung cancer for the last three years. She recently found out her disease had spread, but she couldn’t access the only remaining treatment that might help.

Her sister, Alison, called our nurse-led helpline for advice. Armed with the necessary information, Vicky has now been given access to a new treatment, which could give her more time with her three children.

Thankfully, many of us will never hear those terrifying words – “You have lung cancer”. For those, like Vicky, who do – over 46,000 in the UK every year – life will never be the same again.

Easing anxiety

Living with lung cancer means constantly living in fear of the unknown. You are in constant fear that it might spread, your treatment has stopped working or the disease may come back. COVID-19 has magnified this fear but we’re here to help mitigate these anxieties as much as we can – emotionally, financially and practically.

We have come a long way in the last 30 years. One-year survival rates have more than doubled. Lung cancer now receives the second highest amount of research funding. We are on the cusp of a national screening programme, with several lung health check pilots poised to launch across England. There is a momentum behind lung cancer, and we must not lose focus. We will not lose focus. Too many lives depend on it.”

If you are living with lung cancer, or are concerned in any way, please visit

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