Teacher who beat lung cancer urges others to check

A mother of two who was diagnosed with lung cancer has spoken out about the importance of getting unusual or persistent changes checked, as Lung Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close.

Viv Donaldson was given the clear this year.
Viv Donaldson was given the clear this year.

Viv Donaldson, from Prestonpans in East Lothian, who was diagnosed in May 2014, is thankful that her cancer was caught early and credits this to seeking medical help as soon as she felt something was wrong.

The disease was found on Viv’s right lung and had spread to her lymph nodes, and she started treatment in June 2014 undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.

She was given the all clear this year.

Latest statistics reveal that the percentage of patients recorded as being diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage (stage one) has increased by 24.7 per cent since the launch of the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early programme.

However, with 48 per cent of lung cancers in Scotland being diagnosed at the latest stage of the disease, it’s important people don’t ignore the potential signs and symptoms, as the earlier lung cancer is found, the easier it is to treat.

Viv, 56, who works at Preston Lodge High School, said: “I had been having unusual stomach pains and on waking one morning they were more intense than before so I called NHS 24. I was referred to hospital and after examination by a nurse I was quickly sent for an x-ray. A consultant then told me they had seen something that had cause for concern.

“I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think I had any obvious symptoms of lung cancer but when I think back now there were a few occasions where I found myself very breathless after doing activities that normally I had no problem with.”

“The doctors told me as I was young and fit that they were positive about my outcome. My friends and family were so supportive and all rallied around me which definitely helped me cope with the treatment.

“I am a very lucky lady and I now know the importance of getting checked as soon as possible if you are worried about anything. Early detection is so important and without it I perhaps wouldn’t be here today.”

Statistics show people are around 20 times more likely to survive lung cancer if it’s detected at an early stage compared to a late stage3.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Shona Robison said: “It’s hugely encouraging that there has been an increase in the percentage of patients diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage, and that there is increasing recognition of the signs and symptoms.

“However, even more lives could be saved through earlier detection so the message we want to get across this Lung Cancer Awareness Month is don’t get scared, get checked.”

Irene Johnstone, Head of British Lung Foundation Scotland, said: “Late presentation and diagnosis is one of the main reasons lung cancer survival rates in Scotland lag so far behind rates in Europe and the US, as well as rates for other cancers.

“Evidence from the Scottish Detect Cancer Early programme suggests that major public awareness campaigns are starting to increase early diagnosis rates, hinting that we may be starting to turn around our record on lung cancer.”

Lorraine Dallas, Director of Information & Support, Roy Castle Lung Foundation said: “If someone is worried about lung cancer symptoms, such as a cough that has lasted more than three weeks, it is vital to see their GP. We know that if lung cancer is picked up early your chances of being alive five years later are 20 times better. Lung cancer is treatable, potentially curable, so if you are worried, get checked.”