A new study from the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC) which was conducted in 25 of its member countries, including Ireland, has revealed that 27 per cent of Irish people were unable to name any symptoms of lung cancer, a staggering decrease in awareness from 9 per cent in 2013.
The Irish Cancer Society stated that it was “seriously concerning” that on average Irish people could only name one symptom of the disease, given that it is the second most common cancer in Ireland with over 2,500 cases diagnosed annually, and the leading cause of cancer deaths with approximately 1,855 people dying from it each year (during 2012-2014), due to late stage diagnoses.
Speaking at the launch of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Kevin O’Hagan, Cancer Prevention Manager with the Irish Cancer Society, stated: “One in four lung cancer cases are being diagnosed in Emergency Departments and many of these are at an advanced stage. Irish people need to get checked if they experience any symptoms and not wait to present as an emergency. Late diagnosis limits your treatment options and reduces your chances of survival”.
He added: “There are a number of targets in the National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 aimed at increasing the number of lung cancers diagnosed early. We want the Government, the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), and organisations like the Irish Cancer Society, to come together to take urgent action and implement measures that will improve the earlier diagnosis of lung, and other cancers in Ireland”.
To tackle this cancer, the Irish Cancer Society has announced a four-year grant for researcher Shauna Malone, an instructor in DCU’s MedEx Wellness, a series of a novel community-based chronic illness rehabilitation programmes led by medical director Dr Noel McCaffrey, towards her work which will directly involve lung cancer patients.
Ms Malone’s research, which will be carried out in the School of Health and Human Performance in Dublin City University and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, will first measure the effect that surgery has on physical fitness and quality of life in patients with cancer by tracking participants’ physical fitness and quality of life over the course of their journey from diagnosis to post surgery.
The research will also examine whether exercise can improve physical fitness, recovery from surgery, and quality of life. Participants will be split into four groups.
In an effort to determine whether exercise is most effective when done before, after, or both before and after surgery Group one will exercise both before and after surgery, Group two will exercise before surgery only, Group three will exercise after surgery only, and Group four will not exercise. Lung cancer patients recruited to Shauna’s research project in Groups 1-3 will be assigned to exercise sessions in MedEx.
The results of this research may ultimately lead to better preparation for patients before surgery and for improved patient recovery after surgery.
Outlining the research, Shauna said: “In my work with MedEx I see the benefits exercise and physical fitness can have on the bodies and minds of people with chronic illness. My research now provides the opportunity to scientifically measure the advantages of exercise before and after lung cancer surgery. These results may have a real impact on the survival and quality of life of future lung cancer patients, and I’m excited to get started on my work”.
Carmel Drohan (50) from Artane, Dublin, commented on her positive experience using exercise in the cancer treatment process: “When I was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in 2015, following surgeries and chemotherapy, I was referred to the MedEx Move On programme. This was the best thing ever. I had 12 weeks of group classes and the assessment results showed that I practically doubled my fitness levels. I strongly believed the programme helped my recovery hugely.
“Late last year my cancer returned – this time a small tumour was found in each of my lungs. While I underwent two surgeries to remove some of the tumours, recovery from my second surgery was so much better than my first because in the four-week gap between operations, and under my doctor’s supervision, I was able to exercise and get fitter.
“Having known Shauna as one of my MedEx instructors, I know she will carry out excellent research that will hopefully confirm my belief that exercise can have a hugely positive impact on a patient’s cancer journey, and pave the way forward for pre- and post-surgery advice and methods for lung cancer patients”.
The Irish Cancer Society will continue to monitor Shauna’s progress throughout her four-year research project, ensuring her research is carried out to world-class standards.
Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, congratulated Ms Malone, stating: “Fostering the development of strong Irish cancer research careers is key to ensuring that Ireland continues to play an ever more important part in efforts to overcome cancer.
“We want the donations we receive from the public to go towards world-class cancer research, and so have developed a stringent three-tier review process that research applicants must get through before receiving funding for their work. To apply you must be a cancer expert. To be awarded you must stand out in this very competitive field”.