One of the UK's top snooker referees has backed a new lung cancer campaign after a major drop in detections through the pandemic.

Leo Scullion said he feared he would never officiate another match after being told he had the disease, which is Scotland's most common cancer.

The 63-year-old, who is from Glasgow, said he was aware he had developed a persistent cough but says he just attributed it to being a long-term smoker. It was only when it was pointed out by others than he visited his GP.

He had suffered other symptoms, which he knows now were signs all was not well, including night sweats and exhaustion.

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However, he counts himself lucky as his cancer was treatable with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

He was told the disease was in remission in December 2019, five years after his diagnosis and the same year he reached the pinnacle of his career, officiating his first World Championship final.

HeraldScotland:

Mr Scullion is fronting a new government campaign which urges Scots to contact their GP if they have a new or persistent cough that has lasted three weeks or more.

The early detection message is being promoted in response to Public Health Scotland data that show around 25% fewer lung cancers are being diagnosed now compared to pre-Covid.

While lung cancer is the most common cancer in Scotland, with around 5,500 new cases diagnosed every year, more people than ever are surviving the disease.

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This is down to improved treatments and more people being diagnosed earlier.

However, experts say the fear of a potential cancer diagnosis continues to stop people acting early, when there are more treatment options available and the chance of survival is higher.

Since the launch of the Scottish Government's £43m Detect Cancer Early Programme the proportion of lung cancer diagnoses at the earliest stage have increased by 43%, and by 57% in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Mr Scullion said: “I was aware I was coughing, but it became noticeable to those around me. 

"I was in China for a tournament and put it down to the smog at that time, and the fact I was a smoker. 

"I did have other symptoms which I now know were warning signs. 

"I was waking up in the middle of the night with terrible sweats, and by the time I came back home, I was feeling pretty horrible. Looking back, I think I knew there was something more going on, your body just tells you.

“As soon as the results came back, I just remember saying ‘is it terminal?’ At that point my GP reassured me that there was plenty they could do.

"There were times when I wondered whether I’d be back refereeing.

" To be back working at a professional level, and to have my health, is tremendous."

He added: "If you’re worried about any unusual changes to your health, or worried about someone close to you, go and get checked.  

"It really is that simple.  The sooner they can find out what is wrong, the better.  I’m very grateful I went when I did. 

"There is life after a diagnosis, and I intend to cause havoc for the rest of it.” 

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The majority of GP appointments are still being carried out by phone or online, unless additional tests are required. Patients are being urged to give as much detail as possible.

Lorna Porteous, Co-chair of Scottish Primary Care Cancer Group, said: "You will be asked to come in for a face-to-face appointment if we need to examine you or do some tests – measures are in place to ensure your safety.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf added: "More people are surviving cancer than ever before, but we know that fear of cancer is putting people off getting checked or attending screening, when invited.

“NHS Scotland remains open during COVID-19 and your GP practice is still there for you – getting checked early is a hugely important step in finding out if you, or your loved one, needs urgent medical help."