ONE person a day is diagnosed with lung cancer in East Lancashire.

The area remains a hotspot for lung cancer, with 350 cases diagnosed annually, 90per cent of those caused by smoking.

Survival rates in East Lancashire are also one of the worst in the country, with only 23per cent of patients surviving a year after diagnosis, and only 6.6per cent alive five years after their diagnosis.

Ernie Burton, 62, of Great Harwood, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2010 and, following the removal of half of his left lung, is now in recovery.

For decades, he smoked half an ounce of tobacco a day, and said this caused the disease.

He said: “I’d had a cough for a while and, at first, I was given antibiotics, which didn’t have any effect. My wife persuaded me to go back to the doctors and, after an X Ray and a CT scan, I was told there was a shadow on my lung and it was cancer.

“It was a bombshell. I was scared and panic stricken.

“When I went in for my operation, I wondered whether I’d wake up again.

“But I was fortunate. All the way through my chemo I didn’t suffer any side-effects, apart from an irregular heartbeat.”

Mr Burton immediately stopped smoking when given his diagnosis, and said that losing half a lung has resulted in him quickly becoming breathless when walking and talking.

He is keen for other people to know the importance of early diagnosis and a positive attitude.

He added: “If you've got a persistent cough, don’t just sit there, go to the doctor. If you bury your head in the sand, it’s not going to go away.

“Attitude is also vitally important. If you can keep positive, that’s half of the battle.”

As part of the I Love My Lungs campaign, which runs throughout November, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has arranged with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for a pair of 12ft MEGA lungs to visit Blackburn today, to highlight the fact that lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer.

Paula Chadwick, Foundation chief executive said: “We know public awareness of symptoms of other cancers, such as a lump in your breast or testicles, is quite high, but far too few people know that having a cough for three weeks, or more, can be a sign of lung cancer.

“The earlier people are diagnosed, the more chance they can receive treatment and the more lives that can be saved. So, if there is something not quite right, then please get it checked out.”

The disease, which claims the lives of 35,000 people in the UK every year, costs the UK healthcare system £9,071 per person annually. The giant lungs will be outside the main entrance of Blackburn Town Hall today, from 10am to 3pm.