Cancer warning: Five signs your cough could be cancer-related amid Covid overlap

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A new continuous cough is one of the symptoms of coronavirus, though it can also be a sign of cancer too. Dr Jodie Moffat, Head of Strategic Evidence and Early Diagnosis Programme Lead at Cancer Research UK, told that there is an “overlap” between some Covid symptoms and cancer symptoms, notably lung cancer. She noted signs to look out for that may signal your cough is cancerous. Firstly, if your cough has lasted more than three weeks it may need looking into.

Secondly, if the cough is new, then that could be a sign of cancer.

However, if people already have a cough, then changes in the cough could be an important sign.

Dr Moffat said: “There are generally things to look out for in terms of coughs, which is difficult in Covid times.

“But if your cough’s lasted three weeks or more, then you need to start thinking about that and getting that looked into.

“If it is not just a new cough, which of course, is really challenging when you’re thinking about lung cancer and risk factors. Some people might already have a cough, and a change in the cough can be really important here.

“So a new cough that goes on for three weeks or more, and you know it isn’t Covid because you’ve done your test.”

The fourth sign is that the cough is accompanied by changes to breathlessness.

Finally, if you are coughing up blood, that is also a potential symptom of cancer.

Other symptoms include lumps anywhere in the body, not just the breast, pain in the shoulder or abdomen, weight loss and tiredness.

She explained: ”Changes to your existing cough, your breathlessness, your lump anywhere in the body, not just the breast.

“Your blood, so that might be blood that you’re coughing up, blood that’s coming in your pee and blood that’s coming out of your back passage or your vagina. Those need to be looked into.”

Cancer Research UK’s website stresses the importance of telling your GP everything about your cough.

On other symptoms, Dr Moffatt said: “Pain in the shoulder, pain in the abdomen, and weight loss and tiredness.

“So sometimes by the time you’ve got the weight loss and tiredness, the stage might not be as early as it might be with some of the other symptoms.

“But it’s always worth getting it checked out.”

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Dr Moffat stressed the importance of “getting to know what’s normal for you” and seeking help if you notice anything unusual.

The stage at which patients are diagnosed really can be the difference between life and death.

Later diagnosis shifts the treatment options available, and unfortunately can reduce their chances of successful treatment too.

Amid fears about catching coronavirus, and not wanting to place a burden on the NHS, there remains hesitancy over coming forward with cancer symptoms.

Dr Moffat said: “People matter here.

“If we can get people into the system and get them through then it could make a really positive difference to their outcome.

“People shouldn’t be sitting at home with these symptoms. It’s much better for them to be in the system than outside of it.”

This is echoed by Cancer Research UK’s advice page. It says: “Your worry is unlikely to go away if you don’t make an appointment. The symptom might not be due to cancer.

“But if it is, the earlier it’s picked up the higher the chance of successful treatment.

“You won’t be wasting your doctor’s time.”

Health services across the world have worked tirelessly in the last two years in the fight against COVID-19, saving millions of lives in the process.

With all hands on deck helping to fight Omicron, as well as previous variants, elective surgeries have been cancelled on a regular basis.

Cancer patients are often the ones paying the ultimate price. Macmillan Cancer Support warned in November that the true extent of the backlog is “still to hit the NHS”.

Steven McIntosh, executive director of advocacy and communications at Macmillan, said in a statement: “Nearly two years into the pandemic, there is still a mountain of almost 50,000 people who are missing a cancer diagnosis.

“Thousands more are already facing delays and disruption as they go through treatment.”

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