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Unfortunately by the time mine was diagnosed, I was in the latter group, as are 80 per cent of the 41,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK each year.
Most people, a Department of Health survey reveals, would go to the doctor with a lump in the breast or testicles.
But we must talk about it because the stigma is not helping.
“If we don’t talk about lung cancer, we’ve had it,” says Powers.
Being one of the 65,000 people who are in that position, who are now struggling with breathlessness is, I feel sure, less fun than running almost puff‑free along the airstrip, altitude 7,000 feet, of Powers’s wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Among the other celebrities photographed holding up lung X-rays to put across the early diagnosis message in the Be Clear About Cancer campaign are Lynda Bellingham, Duncan Bannatyne and Billy Bragg, all of whom have lost loved ones to the disease and who wish to help reduce the 35,000 deaths a year it causes in this country.Smoking is the key risk factor for lung cancer, but not smoking does not mean you can’t get it. “CT scans had come down in price and were becoming more effective.Twenty per cent of people with lung cancer have never smoked or, like myself, are ex-very light smokers. Some may have been exposed to asbestos; others, of whom I am one, have been found to have a mutated gene for lung cancer, probably caused by a virus. Americans are less passive about health than we Brits. After a friend died of late-diagnosed lung cancer eight years ago, the actress, singer and conservationist, who made her name in the Eighties series Hart to Hart, took action. I would rather have a scan than another damn holiday.” The scan showed pre-cancerous adenocarcinoma cells in the alveoli (branches) of her right lung.“It’s our obligation to find out what diagnostic tools are available and use them. Those who don’t take advantage of them are mad.” Yet people’s terror of the diagnosis encourages ostrich-like behaviour, says Jesme Fox, medical director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, and wife of former health secretary Dr Liam Fox.Thirty-eight per cent of all new cases of lung cancer are still first identified in accident-and-emergency departments, and they are all late-stage.