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New hope for diagnosing lung cancer sooner

Photo: Hope for diagnosing lung cancer sooner
A trial shows smokers who receive a one-on-one consultation about the symptoms of lung cancer are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease sooner.

A new initiative is successfully encouraging those at higher risk of lung cancer to act sooner when symptoms appear.

The promising results of the first of its kind trial - to be presented at a oncology conference in Sydney on Monday - has raised hopes of improving survival rates for Australia's biggest cancer killer.

"Lung cancer is typically a difficult cancer to treat, but even harder to cure when there is a late diagnosis. Those with lung cancer often take a long time to visit their doctor, sometimes because they feel there is a stigma around chest symptoms when you are a long-term smoker," said Professor Phyllis Butow, President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia.
The CHEST Trial involved over 500 Australians who are long term smokers, aged over 55, with a history of heavy smoking, and who are therefore at higher risk of lung cancer.

Participants in the trial were given a one-on-one consultation with a research nurse as well as a self-help manual informed by psychological theory, to help them understand what symptoms to look for and promote them seeking help sooner.

Researchers tracked which patients visited a GP when they developed respiratory symptoms.

The study found that those who were given the intervention were significantly more likely to see their GP when symptoms developed.

"This is the first trial to show a positive outcome in terms of successfully encouraging those at higher risk of lung cancer to seek medical attention when respiratory symptoms appear, and it's also relatively cost effective," said Professor Jon Emery, from the University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research and Department of General Practice.

"Lung cancer remains Australia's biggest cancer killer and is expected to claim over 9,000 lives this year. Survival rates for the cancer type remain low at less than 14 per cent - mainly because over two thirds of those with the disease are diagnosed too late to be successfully treated."

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