Don’t delay, it’s time to talk to your doctor if you think you are at risk of lung cancer

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer in Canada. On average, 81 Canadians are diagnosed with lung cancer every day.1 What’s more concerning is that about half of all lung cancers are diagnosed at stage 4, an advanced stage with a low survival rate.2 This helps to explain why lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer deaths and why early detection is so important.3

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many Canadians to put off medical care and visits with their primary physician. For those at risk of lung cancer, delayed care could have a significant health impact.

Many Canadians have likely put off appointments with their doctor for a number of medical concerns during the pandemic, but lung cancer does not wait. If you think you are at risk or are experiencing symptoms of lung cancer, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

— Gretty Deutsch, Vice President, Medical Affairs & Country Medical Director at Merck Canada

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Symptoms of Lung Cancer

While early detection is key, people with lung cancer may not experience symptoms or not realize that their symptoms are caused by lung cancer. And symptoms can change over time, as their condition changes. Know the symptoms of lung cancer6:

  • Lung: Cough that doesn’t go away, or gets worse, shortness of breath or wheezing, coughing up blood
  • Chest: Constant chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply
  • Abdomen: Weight loss that you can’t explain
  • Throat: Changes in your voice, hoarseness, trouble swallowing
  • Head: Tiredness, headache
  • Bones: Bone pain

The impact of COVID-19 on cancer care

The COVID-19 pandemic has created barriers to cancer care. For example, Ontario’s screening programs for breast, cervical, colorectal and lung cancer did 41% fewer screening tests in 2020 than in 2019.4 Delaying cancer screenings could lead to a wave of late-stage diagnoses that the health system is not prepared to meet.5

While a persistent cough, for example, may not feel urgent in the present, a visit to the doctor for this common lung cancer symptom could mean the difference between an early or late-stage diagnosis. For a patient at risk, early detection can help make the difference.

Know the risk factors:

While anyone can get lung cancer, some people have a higher risk. For example, these factors raise someone’s risk (chance) of getting lung cancer:7

Smoking tobacco or being around smoke from others

Living or working in a building that contains radon or asbestos

Having a family history of lung cancer or lung disease

Please note that this list is not exhaustive and there are other risk factors for, and symptoms of, lung cancer. If you have any questions about lung cancer risk factors or symptoms, be sure to ask your doctor.

You can help — encourage your loved ones to talk to their doctor

Lung cancer touches the lives of many. As we emerge from the pandemic, talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may be at risk for lung cancer or if you have symptoms. And encourage your friends and family to learn more about the risk factors and symptoms of lung cancer.

We’re committed to a better future

Merck is committed to improving lives and making a difference for lung cancer patients. One way we’re honouring that commitment is with our partnership with MaRs: The Lung Cancer Innovation Challenge. This project gives incentives to medical innovators across Canada who focus on creating new solutions to help enhance a lung cancer patient’s journey to enable improved health outcomes.

What you need to know about lung cancer

In 2020, about 13% of all new cancer cases were lung cancers — this means about 1 in 10 people diagnosed with cancer had lung cancer1

1 in 4 cancer-related deaths in Canada were due to lung cancer in 2020.1

The chance of living for 3 years after being diagnosed with lung cancer is:

71% (71 in 100 people) when diagnosed at stage 12

5% (5 in 100 people) when diagnosed at stage 42


1Canadian Cancer Society, 2020. Lung cancer statistics. Available online: (accessed September 2021).

2Canadian Cancer Society, 2020. Canadian Cancer Statistics: A 2020 special report on lung cancer. Available online: (accessed September 2021).

3Lung Cancer Canada, 2020. 2020 Faces of Lung Cancer Report. Available online: (accessed September 2021).

4Walker MJ, Meggetto O, Gao J, et al. Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on organized cancer screening and diagnostic follow-up care in Ontario, Canada: A provincial, population-based study. Preventive Medicine. 2021;151:106586.

5Maringe C, Spicer J, Morris M, et al. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer deaths due to delays in diagnosis in England, UK: a national, population-based, modelling study. Lancet Oncol. 2020;21(8):1023-1034.

6Canadian Cancer Society, 2020. Symptoms of lung cancer. Available online: (accessed October 2021).

7Canadian Cancer Society, 2020. Risk factors for lung cancer. Available online: (accessed October 27, 2021).

© 2021 Merck Canada Inc. All rights reserved.