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Free ‘Cough Checker’ Phone-Line Launched To Catch Lung Cancer Out

The Big Check Up!

Broadcaster Maia Dunphy calls on people of Ireland to get worrying coughs checked as lung cancer may hide behind Covid-19 and flu this winter

  • Marie Keating Foundation is concerned that lung cancer, Ireland’s biggest cancer killer, is being masked by COVID-19 and flu during the pandemic
  • Despite early detection being crucial to improving survival rates, lung cancer referrals are down by 9% compared to last year1
  • Research shows more than a third of people (35%) are not confident they would notice a symptom of lung cancer2
  • A barrier to people seeing their GP with symptoms of lung cancer is not wanting to waste the doctor’s time2
  • The Big Check Up campaign aims to encourage early detection and improve survival rates of lung cancer in Ireland


The world’s first cough checker phone-line has been launched today to help catch lung cancer out and encourage the public to call their GP if they have concerns. Lung cancer symptoms may be hiding behind COVID-19 and flu this coughing season, which could lead to further cases of late-stage diagnosis, according to the Marie Keating Foundation. The Foundation has teamed up with Maia Dunphy to call on the people of Ireland to catch out lung cancer and dial 1800-COUGHS (1800-268447) if concerned.



Launching the Big Check Up campaign, Maia Dunphy, broadcaster and author, said, “One in two of us will experience cancer personally at some stage, which is a difficult thing to imagine, even though it is a reality for so many. My own Mum was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago and we are very thankful that she is well today. By checking up on each other, and talking about our health, we can get more people to think about the early signs of lung cancer and get a worrying cough checked. Covid-19 has taken so much from us already, don’t let it hide the signs of a lung cancer cough.”


Lung cancer is Ireland’s biggest cancer killer3, despite being largely preventable and treatable, because it is often diagnosed at a late stage3. Research by the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) this year found that more than a third of people (35%) are not confident they would notice a symptom of lung cancer, while more than half (53%) say they would not act immediately and contact their GP if they noticed a potential sign of lung cancer. Worryingly, a reason many people (14%) are not contacting their GP when they notice a symptom of lung cancer, including a cough, is to not waste their doctors’ time2. Stigma associated with lung cancer remains a key issue, and those most at-risk are least likely to get tell-tale symptoms checked. However, experts agree that recognising the warning signs and speaking to a doctor early can dramatically improve survival rates.


Common symptoms of lung cancer include4:

  • A persistent cough (longer than 3 weeks)
  • A sudden change in a cough that you have had for a long time
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain or shoulder that is unexplained
  • Coughing up blood-stained phlegm.

Dr Una Kennedy, GP Advisor with the NCCP, who voices the Cough Checker phone-line said, “We want everyone to understand how important it is to speak to a GP if concerned about a constant cough, appetite loss, unexplained weight loss or you find you are easily breathless or really tired, and to have the confidence to get checked. We know people are cocooning or isolating from others at the moment, so they may be unsure about contacting their GP. However, routine health care is still being provided by GPs during the pandemic. GPs are here to help and no matter what type of cough it is, the earlier it is diagnosed the better the outcome.”


Liz Yeates, CEO, Marie Keating Foundation said, “Lung cancer needs a good listener as it is extremely sneaky. This year it is hiding behind Covid-19 and flu, making it more dangerous than ever to ignore concerns. Our new phone-line will give people the confidence to know it is okay to call their GP and to get ‘that’ cough checked out.  The Marie Keating Foundation is here to support everyone at every step of their cancer journey, but we want to prevent cancer too. We know that early detection improves survival. By recognising the warning signs as early as possible, we can catch lung cancer out.”

The Big Check Up, supported by Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS), MSD and Roche Pharmaceuticals (Ireland) Ltd, aims to encourage the Irish public to check up on their family and friends this coughing season, encouraging them to take notice of ‘that’ cough and get it checked by their GP. The free phone-line, 1800-COUGHS (1800-268447), will allow callers to hear advice from a GP on any suspicious cough they may have and includes advice on Covid-19, flu and lung cancer. To find out more about lung cancer and the Big Check Up, visit: