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Doctors are concerned patients with lung cancer may be overlooked amid coronavirus

Photo: GPs and patients sound lung cancer alarm
Doctors are worried patients with lung cancer may be overlooked amid the focus on diagnosing and treating the coronavirus, which has similar symptoms.

About six years ago, it took Lisa Briggs 10 months and 16 visits to her general practitioner before she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Although her symptoms were exacerbated until the point she was coughing up blood, she managed to deliver her baby.

Dr Briggs survived lung cancer although it was only detected at a stage when survival rates are usually very poor.

With the current coronavirus pandemic pressuring health professionals to identify symptoms of the deadly virus as a priority, Dr Briggs hopes lung cancer symptoms are not overlooked when patients are most at risk.
"There's definitely a concern and a panic within the lung cancer community," Dr Briggs said.

"There's a concern that patients presenting with these mild symptoms are just not going to get referred appropriately because of the coronavirus and the flu."

To ensure early diagnosis, Cancer Australia has launched a new guide to help health professionals correctly identify and investigate symptoms of lung cancer.

More than 13,000 patients are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer in Australia this year, with just a 17 per cent survival rate.

Danielle Mazza, general practitioner and head of the Department of General Practice at Monash University, is also joining the push for lung cancer awareness.

"If the test comes back negative for COVID, we need to follow our usual evidence-based approaches to sorting out the reasons for the symptom. And one of those might be lung cancer," Dr Mazza said.

Cancer Australia is also reminding Australians of the importance of staying safe during the global pandemic.

"It is really important that if you have any new or persisting symptoms that are unusual for you, you contact your GP as we don't want to miss any early signs of cancer," Cancer Australia chief executive Dorothy Keefe said.

"People with cancer need to be particularly careful about practising social distancing and good hygiene, have an influenza vaccination as early in the flu season as possible, and continue taking cancer medicines as usual."

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