According to the latest multi-national study published by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition (GLCC), well over one-third of people (37.5%) do not know any symptoms of lung cancer. For young people (aged 18-24) this number is even higher, with 45% of respondents not knowing any symptoms.

These numbers are worrying as diagnosing lung cancer early dramatically increases people’s chances of survival. For example, in the UK those diagnosed at stages one or two are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years or more than those whose cancer is caught at later stages.

While smoking tobacco is the biggest cause of lung cancer, the misperceptions that lung cancer only affects people who have smoked further hampers efforts towards early diagnosis.

In Denmark, a country with relatively high levels of lung cancer,[1] but relatively low smoking rates,[2] nearly half (47%) of respondents reported not knowing any symptoms of lung cancer.

The stigma around lung cancer, due to its links with smoking, create additional challenges for policymakers looking to take action, with the same study finding, 43% of people globally agreed they have less sympathy for people with lung cancer than other types of cancer.

Speaking to the findings, Lisbeth Søbæk Hansen, Founder of the Danish Lung Cancer Association (Patientforeningen, underscores the challenges faced in educating the public: “one of the reasons why many respondents don’t know the symptoms of lung cancer is because they are very diffuse and are very similar to other common diseases… Many smokers have a life-long cough and don’t consider it worth mentioning to their GPs – and they are somehow ashamed of the stigma.”

Matthew Peters, Chair of the GLCC, notes only ‘’concerted political action’’ can bring about effective change to address the twofold problem of lack of awareness and lack of sympathy that is hampering healthcare systems worldwide in their efforts to reduce the burden of lung cancer and improve outcomes for all affected by the disease.”

To this end, the GLCC is calling for policymakers worldwide to work with the health system to:

  • Increase recognition of lung cancer symptoms through targeted public awareness campaigns.
  • Improve public education and understanding of lung cancer and its causes to reduce stigma.
  • Highlight the importance of early diagnosis and treatment in improving survival to encourage more people to seek help early.
  • Implement a national lung cancer screening programme to help people get diagnosed and into treatment as early as possible.

In addition to the symptom of a cough for three weeks or more, other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  1. chest infections that keep coming back
  2. coughing up blood
  3. a long-standing cough that gets worse
  4. an ache or pain when breathing or coughing
  5. persistent breathlessness
  6. persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  7. loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss

Read the full study here:


The study was conducted across the following 29 countries with responses received from at least 1,000 adults per country: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and USA.