It’s been a remarkable two years for so many reasons. From increased research funding to pioneering surgery, more life-lengthening treatments to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the last two years in may ways are incomparable. However, one things that has remained constant is our unwavering support for those living with lung cancer.
Our work in 2019 and early 2020
2019 started off so positively. Lung cancer received the second highest amount of research funding. We saw pioneering new surgeries and many new lines of life-lengthening treatments, all of which contributed to an increase in lung cancer survival rates.
These improvements looked set to continue; NHS England announced the rollout of its Targeted Lung Health Checks which could revolutionise early detection rates of the disease.
Our own lung health check programme in Nottingham saw a 60% early detection rate in those diagnosed with lung cancer.
This is a significant increase on the current figures which see almost three quarters of those diagnosed having late stage disease.
In 2019, we also launched to highly successful awareness campaigns. Like Me featured 10 women all of whom were diagnosed under the age of 50 to challenge the dangerous misconceptions around the disease. Follow my Lead focused on improving conversations around lung cancer to ensure people have the support they need when living with lung cancer. This campaign was so impactful, it was featured throughout the London underground, on Sky News and caused quite the stir on Twitter!
We were starting to see real success with some of our research projects into the early detection of lung cancer. A world first study funded by our charity and led by Professor Sam Janes at University College London could help to develop a simple blood test to pick up molecular signals linked to early cancer development as well as leading to new treatments.
And then Covid hit…
We now found ourselves in crisis mode.
Whilst in 2019, much of our support was face-to-face, the pandemic and soaring demand meant we had to quickly adapt these services. In addition to our established services such as our patients grant scheme, online forum and Ask the Nurse helpline which saw calls increase by 61% in 2020, we also launched our Keep in Touch Support service to reduce the impact of isolation due to shielding.
Since the launch of the service, we have made over 860 calls to those affected by lung cancer in 2020, with conversations lasting, on average, 30 minutes. The service was so well received, it continued even after shielding paused.
Hearing from this service is a great relief for me. It’s as helpful as any part of the NHS. It’s great hearing from you every week. I look forward to it and it keeps me in touch with the world.Brian, Keep in Touch user
With lung cancer referral rates plummeting during 2020 as people stayed at home and dismissed a persistent cough as a sign of Covid rather than lung cancer, we knew we had to take action. Given the severity of the situation, we accelerated and extended our plans for Lung Cancer Awareness month and launched our Still Here campaign in September. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of the potential signs and symptoms, remind everyone that a cough does not just mean Covid and encourage and reassure those with symptoms to contact their GP – even during a lockdown.
We also teamed up with winners of Britain’s Got Talent, Attraction, to create a bespoke performance, bringing lung cancer out of the shadows and demonstrating the importance of recognising symptoms and acting on them. It was our aim that by showcasing lung cancer in this unique way, more people will watch the beautiful and emotional performance and it worked with over 2.2million views online and featured on BBC2.
2020: A year never forgotten
It was also the year our charity marked its 30th anniversary. Back when the charity began, the outlook for people with lung cancer was so bleak, so hopeless. We now find ourselves up against another overwhelming obstacle in Covid,
that threatens to undo all the excellent work pioneered by our charity over the last 30 years. But what our three decades of experience has taught us is we can overcome this.
We have succeeded in the face of opposition, the face of negativity, the face of hopelessness and together, we will do it again.
Everything we’ve done over these last two incompatible years, every patient we’ve supported, every life we have saved, is because of our incredible supporters. You never fail to surprise us with your creativity and generosity.
“Thank you” never quite covers it but we do thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because with your help we can recover, rebuild and restore hope after the despair of 2020.