Greater awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer are needed in the general population, it has been warned.
People with a persistent cough lasting more than three weeks should be urged to see a GP early according to the government and a leading cancer charity.
Almost 24,000 people a year in England receive a lung cancer diagnosis when the disease is at a late stage – only around 15% of cases are diagnosed at the earliest stage, when treatment is most likely to be successful.
Yet new data shows almost three-quarters (73%) of people are unaware that lung cancer is England’s biggest cancer killer.
Despite the fact that lung cancer is most common in people aged over 50, one in four people (26%) think that all age groups are equally at risk of lung cancer.
The research also shows that 40% of people are unaware that a cough that has lasted three weeks or more is a potential symptom of lung cancer.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "More people die from lung cancer than any other cancer in England, but many people don't know the signs and symptoms that could save their lives.
"The message from this campaign is clear - if you have a persistent cough, go and see your doctor. The earlier lung cancer is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment will be successful."
Other symptoms of lung cancer include:
• a cough that has got worse or changes
• repeated chest infections
• coughing up blood
• feeling more tired than usual for some time
• losing weight for no obvious reason
• an ache or pain in your chest or shoulder that has lasted some time
Professor Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support said: “Early diagnosis is key. The earlier cancer is caught, the more than can be done to boost the chances of surviving it.”
The government has launched a new campaign to raise awareness. The Be Clear on Cancer campaign will see adverts - featuring real GPs - on TV, print and radio from today until mid-August.