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Graphic new TV campaign spotlights smoking and lung cancer

Thursday 14 February, 2008

Smokers will be confronted with a graphic warning about their habit this weekend, with a new campaign highlighting the very poor prognosis for anyone diagnosed with lung cancer hitting television screens from Sunday.

Around 34 Victorians die every week from lung cancer, with lung cancer death accounting for 19% of all cancer deaths. Smoking is responsible for around 80 to 90% of all lung cancer cases.

Executive Director of Quit, Ms Fiona Sharkie said the campaign, developed by The Cancer Institute NSW, focuses on the whistling-noise of a smoker's breathing indicating the presence of advanced lung cancer, which is found blocking the airway when viewed through the lens of a broncoscope.

"People tend to assume that every smoker knows that smoking is a direct cause of lung cancer but in reality less than half of smokers believe tobacco use causes lung cancer."

"This new campaign provides a sobering reminder of what could happen to a smoker who does not quit, and we are hoping it will deliver the lung cancer message to a new generation of smokers."

Ms Sharkie made no apologies for the graphic nature of the campaign saying it demonstrated the very real health consequences of smoking.

"Smokers deserve to see an accurate presentation of the potential consequence of tobacco use and although this campaign may not be pretty it does present the dangers of smoking in an honest and uncompromising manner."

Associate Professor David Ball, a cancer specialist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, said lung cancer is the greatest cause of years of life lost to cancer in this country and the most tragic aspect is that nearly all of the deaths could have been prevented.

"Everyday we see the human faces behind lung cancer statistics, the lives and families interrupted tragically and irreversibly by this disease."

"With 80 to 90% of lung cancers due to smoking, it doesn't make sense to me that all this suffering and loss of life could have been avoided by an adjustment in lifestyle."

A/Professor Ball said that by the time lung cancer is diagnosed it is often too late with lung cancer having one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers, approximately 11% at five years.

"There are no nerves to detect pain in the lungs, so cancers can grow to a large size without causing discomfort. As a result, up to half of all patients are not diagnosed until the cancer has already spread beyond the lung, by which time surgery is futile."

"Lung cancer also accounts for more disability than any other malignancy, and it is not just breathing problems. Due to the way it spreads, for example to the brain, it can cause paralysis or dementia; in other cases it spreads to bone causing pain and fractures, for these patients we may be able to relieve symptoms, but we cannot alter the progress of the disease."

View the new TV advertisement.

Ms Fiona Sharkie is available for comment on 03 9635 5522 or 0437 347 007

To arrange an interview with Associate Professor Ball, please contact Annie Rahilly, Public Relations Manager, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre on 0417 123 048.

Further information: Edwina Pearse, Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400 mob: 0417 303 811 email: