Lung Foundation Australia Launches New Campaign To Stop Aussies From Ignoring The Early Warning Signs of Lung Cancer 

September 8, 2021


What if your cough isn’t just a cough?’ will be launched today to combat complacency as  alarming new research reveals 1 in 3 Aussies would not act on a new, persistent cough  lasting more than 3 weeks

  • 60% of Aussies are unaware that a persistent cough of 3 or more weeks should be  investigated by a GP as it may be an early sign of lung cancer: The earlier lung cancer  is diagnosed, the greater the chances of treatment and survival, yet most people are  diagnosed at late stage.2If lung cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage, the relative 5-year  survival is 69%, compared to 17% in later stages.
  • More than 1 in 3 Aussies ‘self-diagnose’ a new cough and convince themselves ‘it’s  nothing to worry about’: A persistent cough lasting 3 or more weeks should always be  investigated by a GP. Last year, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death,  with an estimated 13,258 new cases, and claiming the lives of approximately 8,641  Australians.
  • National symptom awareness campaign launched to combat cough complacency: With  40% of Aussies not knowing why lung cancer should be diagnosed early, Lung Foundation  Australia will launch ‘What if your cough isn’t just a cough?’ across radio and social media for  four weeks, to encourage early action. 

Today, national patient organisation Lung Foundation Australia  is releasing a new campaign – ‘What if your cough isn’t just a cough?’ – to encourage Australians to  take their lung health seriously and talk to their GP if they have a persistent, unexplained cough that  has lasted more than 3 weeks. This is critical if other symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath  or chest discomfort are also present, even if they are mild.

New, nationally representative data of more than 1,000 Australians released today to coincide with  the launch reveals that, despite it being one of the possible early symptoms of lung cancer, 1 in 3 Australians would put off investigating a persistent cough or self-diagnose. This is despite it being a  possible early sign of lung cancer, which can impact anyone, irrespective of lifestyle choices.  

According to Mark Brooke, CEO, Lung Foundation Australia, the early warning signs are easy to miss,  and just as easy to ignore/self-diagnose, emphasising the importance of awareness. 

“Importantly, our research shows us that over 60% of Australians did not know that a persistent cough  should be checked if it has lasted 3 weeks or more. This is a key knowledge gap which we need to  fill. Diagnosing lung cancer in its early stage is critical to improving survival rates, hence our message  today via ‘What if your cough isn’t just a cough?’, is to act without delay,” said Mr Brooke. 

“Not all lung cancers are made equal, and not all of those who are diagnosed experience the same  symptoms. A cough is only one of a number of potential symptoms of lung cancer. Others include  breathlessness, fatigue, pain in the chest, coughing up blood, and weight loss. If you notice any new,  persistent or changed symptoms speak to your GP. This is particularly important if you have any risk  factors such as history of smoking, occupation exposure to asbestos, dust or chemicals, or if you are  aged over 40. We don’t want any Australian self-diagnosing or dismissing potential symptoms of lung  cancer. Early investigation by a health professional is key,” Mr Brooke continued.  

Lung cancer has the lowest 5-year survival rate of the five most commonly diagnosed cancers, at just  20%. More than half of Australians (53%) are diagnosed with lung cancer at stage IV, where life  expectancy is just 19% after 12 months. If diagnosed early, five-year survival increases to up to  91%. Despite the devastating impact of lung cancer in Australia, and the need to diagnose and treat in early stage to maximise treatment options and improve outcomes, Lung Foundation Australia’s new  research reveals that a staggering 40% of the general public are unsure of why lung cancer should be  diagnosed early.

The radio and social media campaign will target the top lung cancer ‘hotspots’ in the country, with  new data pointing to those areas with the highest incidence rates of lung cancer, as well as those  where new diagnoses and referrals have been most impacted by the pandemic.  

According to Professor Christine Jenkins AM, Chair, Lung Foundation Australia, we all have a role to  play in encouraging our friends and loved ones to act on a persistent cough, as well as ourselves. 

“Our research shows us that over 60% of Aussies would be more likely to encourage a loved one or friend to get a persistent cough checked, more so than themselves, and that just 40% of Aussies  would get a persistent cough checked if they were encouraged to do so by a loved one or friend.1It is  clear that we each have a responsibility to listen out for and encourage each other to take our lung  health seriously.” 

“If you notice a persistent, unexplained cough in anyone around you, be that a friend, colleague, or  loved one – encourage them to act on it. It is always best to seek advice from a healthcare expert and rule out anything serious,” said Professor Jenkins.  

“For the vast majority of us, a new cough will not be a cause for concern. For some, however, a  lingering cough could be a sign of something more serious, such as a lung disease or lung cancer.  We’re calling on Australians to get to know their lung health better, understand the symptoms of lung  cancer and lung disease and make a commitment to discuss any new, changed or persistent  symptoms with a GP.” 

This week, in partnership with Cancer Australia, Lung Foundation Australia is also launching an  accredited e-learning package that aims to increase the confidence of primary care health  professionals in recognising lung cancer in symptomatic patients. The training will support health  professionals to apply the recommendations of Cancer Australia’s Investigating symptoms of lung  cancer: A guide for health professionals in clinical practice. 

Dr Kerry Hancock, GP and Lung Foundation Australia Primary Care Clinical Advisory Committee  Chair, says the training is highly recommended for her GP colleagues in particular, as a diagnosis at  an early stage means more treatment options and better outcomes. 

“You might only diagnose lung cancer once or twice a year but when you do, being prepared with the  knowledge of an evidence-based, step-wise approach to investigation and referral may help save a  life.” 

You can learn more about ‘What if your cough isn’t just a cough?’ and complete a lung health check  by visiting 

This campaign has been developed in partnership with AstraZeneca Australia.

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