Sir Alex Ferguson hails example set by lung cancer survivor

Latest early detection statistics highlighted to mark Lung Cancer Awareness Month

A man who survived lung cancer after seeking help early has been praised as setting a ‘great example to everyone in Scotland’ by Sir Alex Ferguson, who fronts the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early (DCE) lung campaign.

The football legend met with Tom Hart, 62, from Larbert, who was diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago, and heard how a GP check for his persistent cough led to a tumour being found in his right lung.

In the film of their meeting, released to mark the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Sir Alex talks to Tom about how far treatments have come since he lost his own parents to the disease, and praises Tom for sharing his experience to urge others not to ignore a persistent cough.

Latest statistics show that since the launch of DCE, the percentage of patients diagnosed with the earliest stage of lung cancer (stage 1) in Scotland has increased by over a third (35.8 per cent overall), and by even more amongst those living in the most deprived areas (44.1 per cent)1.

The DCE lung campaign, running across Scotland throughout November, aims to drive awareness of the fact that a cough for three weeks or more could be a sign of lung cancer, in a bid to encourage those with the symptom to get checked by their GP sooner rather than later.

The five year survival rate for those diagnosed at an early stage is almost 20 times higher than for those diagnosed at a late stage2.

For Tom, early diagnosis in 2011 led to successful treatment, allowing him to return to work. Although his lung cancer returned, Tom has recovered well and credits seeking help early with his recovery.

Father-of-two Tom Hart said:

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer after my wife gave me a bit of stick about getting a persistent cough checked out. When I heard it was a tumour in the centre of my right lung, it was a complete shock. It really took the wind out my sails. 

“Luckily my cancer was found early and the treatment I’ve received since has been first-class. At one stage, I was eligible for an innovative radiotherapy treatment at The Beatson which worked and I had no side effects.  It’s amazing what can be done nowadays.  

“I feel very fortunate that I sought help when I did, as the outcome could have been very different. Right now, I’m focused on getting on with life and looking to the future.  You never know what tomorrow will bring and I certainly never thought it would be meeting Sir Alex Ferguson for a cuppa in Govan.  As a life-long Dunfermline Athletic fan, that was a real honour.”

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport said:

It’s encouraging to see the recent increase in the percentage of lung cancers being diagnosed at the earliest stage, when treatment and survival is highest.

“There’s lots that can be done to treat lung cancer and as a result of better treatments and increased rates of early detection, more people than ever in Scotland are surviving.

“As Tom’s story illustrates, seeing your GP when you notice a persistent change in your health is worthwhile. If you’ve had a cough for three weeks or more, it’s probably nothing to worry about but, if it is something that needs treatment, the earlier you go the better. So, don’t get scared, get checked.”

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View Tom’s film here:

Case study

Tom Hart, 62 from Larbert was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. The father of two had developed a chest infection which had been successfully treated, but he was left with a lingering cough - something his wife and colleagues urged him to get checked out by his GP.

Tom put off making the appointment for a couple of weeks, thinking it could wait until after his daughter’s wedding and subsequent holiday. Once assessed by his GP, Tom was referred for an x-ray and just days later was told he had a tumour in his right lung. 

The non-aggressive tumour was treated with radiotherapy at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, with Tom receiving three doses of radiotherapy a day over the course of 12 days.

The successful treatment and his subsequent recovery meant Tom was able to return to his job at NHS Forth Valley in September 2011.

Since then, Tom has had two re-occurrences with smaller tumours detected early once more, the most recent of which was in 2014. He was successfully treated with Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) – an innovative non-invasive treatment at The Beatson in 2015 and has recovered well.

Supporting quotes:

Lorraine Dallas, Director of Information & Support, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “It is great to see the Scottish Government sharing a positive story about lung cancer survival at the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month. As the charity that supports many people affected by lung cancer, we know that getting diagnosed early – as Tom was – is vital.”

Notes to editors:

1 Reference: Detect Cancer Early Staging Data published ISD, July 2016

2 Scottish Cancer Registry, ISD, extracted September 2014, based on patients diagnosed in 2005-2007.

The latest burst of the Detect Cancer Early campaign will include TV, outdoor and radio advertising, with supporting digital and PR planned for the month of November.

Potential lung cancer symptoms can include:

  • A cough you've had for 3 weeks or more.
  • A cough you've had for a long time that's got worse or changes.
  • Feeling breathless for no reason.
  • A chest infection that doesn't clear up.
  • Coughing blood.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Chest or shoulder pains.
  • Unexplained tiredness or lack of energy.
  • A hoarse voice.
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