The NHS is urging the public to come forward if they are experiencing lung cancer symptoms after an almost 30% drop in referrals compared to this time last year.

As a persistent cough is also a symptom of Covid, it is more important than ever to be aware of the warning signs of lung cancer. 

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in England with around 5,800 people in South East England diagnosed each year. 

Finding lung cancer early, like other cancers, makes it more treatable.

However, research commissioned by the NHS found half the people in South East England do not know that a persistent cough for more than three weeks can be a lung cancer symptom.

The findings have been released as NHS England and Public Health England launch a major new drive encouraging people to get check by a GP if they have lung cancer symptoms.

Michael Baker, deputy director of healthcare at Public Health England South East, said: "It’s too easy to ignore important signs your body is trying to tell you but it’s so important with cancer that it is treated as early as possible.

"If you are in any doubt at all, please consult your GP. Don’t wait until it’s too late."

Those whose cancer is caught at the earliest point, referred to as stage one, have a 57.7% chance of living for another five years, compared to 3.1% for those diagnosed at stage four.

NHS England has introduced a series of innovations in cancer care during the pandemic, including coronavirus-secure surgery hubs set up across the country and £160 million invested in ‘Covid-friendly’ cancer drugs, that treat patients without having such a big impact on their immune system.