15th November 2023

Lung cancer awareness month arrives in Westminster

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Today [Wednesday 15th November], we are co-hosting with MSD a parliamentary awareness event at Westminster and delivering a very important message:

Lung cancer is not fixed because screening is being implemented.

Our chief executive, Paula Chadwick, will be addressing MPs and asking them to pledge their support for lung cancer, increase early detections and improve lung cancer care within their constituencies.

Here’s some snippets from Paula’s speech…

“I have been at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for over 25 years, and I can honestly say this year has been one, if not, the most impactful year in our history.

“On 26th June, a national targeted screening programme for lung cancer was finally given the green light and is now being gradually implemented across the country, with full rollout set for 2028.

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has been at the forefront of screening for decades, long before any other charity was interested in lung cancer, and it is our commitment and research funding which has formed the basis of screening today.

“But the reason we are here today is to deliver a very important message. As momentous as screening is, it does not solve the problem. Lung cancer is not fixed screening is being implemented and our focus now is firmly on improving early diagnosis beyond screening.

“If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer, and everyone deserves the opportunity to be diagnosed as quickly as possible.

“When lung cancer is caught early, it can be treated with curative intent. For those with very early-stage disease, this is often keyhole surgery – pioneered by the charity’s founder – without the need for any follow up treatment, such as chemotherapy.

“We know patients who have undergone surgery for lung cancer and been home the next day. We know patients who have been operated on and gone on holiday a month later. We even know patients who have had part of their lung removed and are climbing mountains, or scuba diving, or cycling great distances.

“We have also seen significant advances in treating later stage disease. There are now multiple treatment lines of targeted therapies for genetic mutation driven lung cancers. We are seeing positive outcomes for patients being treated with immunotherapy, or combination treatments.

However, not all patients are being given the option for these new treatments. In fact, there is a significant discrepancy in testing for these mutations.

“A biomarker test checks cancer cells for important genetic changes, or mutations. Testing lung cancer in this way is a vital early step in making sure a person starts on the best treatment plan for their specific type of lung cancer.

“Approximately, half of all patients with non-small cell lung cancer have at least one mutation that has a targeted treatment option. Yet the opportunity to test for mutations is being missed in some patients.

“A Patient Experience Survey conducted by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition, of which Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is the secretariat, suggests that around one third of patients asked were either not offered a biomarker test or were unsure whether they had been offered one.

“Sadly, there will be cases where early detection is simply not possible. But even when lung cancer isn’t curable, it can still be treatable. We know many patients with stage 4, metastatic lung cancer who have passed that five-year milestone because of these treatments. One patient, Spike Elliott, was given a 6 to 12-month prognosis. He was then tested for genetic mutations and is now approaching five years, with no evidence of disease.

Let me ask – Do you know if your local Integrated Care Systems and Cancer Alliances are ensuring all lung cancer patients are undergoing these potentially life-lengthening tests? And if they are being done, how long are patients having to wait for results? How long are people and families being forced to wait until they can have treatment?

“We understand that, in some cases, patients are waiting up to eight weeks for these results. Eight weeks of knowing they have a life-threatening disease that is not being treated.

“For us at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, we have three primary focuses which we need your support:

  • We must ensure that those eligible for screening take up the opportunity.
  • We must ensure those with symptoms are put on the right path as quickly as possible – regardless of age, gender, or lifestyle, and this may need routes that bypass primary care such as the self-referral to x-ray pilots in Greater Manchester or the community pharmacy referral service for lung symptoms currently being trialled.
  • And, for those who receive a diagnosis, we must ensure they undergo all the relevant tests in a timing manner in order to start on the best treatment plan for them, the treatment plan that gives them the best chance to live through lung cancer than die prematurely of it.

“As our Be Unforgettable campaign says, forget everything you think you know about lung cancer. All you need to know is this:

“Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer but together, we can change that.”