Listen to hear Londonderry’s coughing bus shelters

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Have you ever heard of a bus shelter that coughs? Never had we.

But coughing’ bus shelters have started appearing in Londonderry to raise awareness of lung cancer

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant at the Public Health Agency (PHA), at one of the PHA's 'coughing' bus shelters.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant at the Public Health Agency (PHA), at one of the PHA's 'coughing' bus shelters.

Northern Ireland’s first ‘coughing’ bus shelters, created as part of an innovative Public Health Agency (PHA) campaign to raise awareness of the key signs of lung cancer, have started appearing on the streets.

You can find them at Foyle Street and the Strand Road, opposite Sainsbury’s

The coughing shelters form part of the latest phase of the PHA’s ‘Be Cancer Aware’ campaign and are specially built to cough intermittently when people are waiting for a bus.

Passengers at these shelters will hear a man coughing before a woman’s voice recommends visiting the GP if they, or someone they know, has had a cough for three weeks or more.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the PHA, explained: “None of us really wants to talk about cancer, but it is vital that we are aware of the signs and symptoms and get checked out if we experience any of them, so these bus shelters will help grab people’s attention in an interesting way and get them thinking about lung cancer.

“Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Northern Ireland, but early detection can improve the outcome for someone with the condition.

“With increasing numbers of people developing lung cancer, we are using the ‘coughing’ bus shelters to raise awareness of this illness.”

There were over 1,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed in Northern Ireland in 2013. The illness is more common in people over 50 and in smokers, but around one in eight people with lung cancer has never smoked.

If lung cancer is diagnosed early, two in five patients will survive five years or more. However, when the diagnosis is made later on, only one in 50 will live this long. That is why it is vital to seek medical advice if you experience any symptoms which could indicate that you may have the condition.

Dr McCarthy continued: “One reason patients are often diagnosed late is that they are unaware of the symptoms of lung cancer. The ‘coughing’ bus shelter is therefore a great opportunity to explain to people the potential significance of a cough, reaching them when they’re least expecting it.

“This campaign will increase people’s awareness of the early signs of lung cancer – which may be all-too-often overlooked as something minor.”

Some of the common signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

• persistent cough (more than three weeks);

• coughing up blood or blood-stained phlegm (sputum);

• chest and/or shoulder pains;

• tiredness and loss of energy;

• weight loss (for no obvious reason);

• shortness of breath or wheezing;

• hoarse voice;

• a change in shape at the end of your fingers (clubbing).

To support the campaign, the PHA has developed a comprehensive new website at www.becancerawareni.info. The website provides information about cancer signs and symptoms, explains what to do if you’re concerned, and signposts to recommended sources of support or further information.