31st January 2020

Lung cancer diagnoses via A&E are a ‘travesty’ says new report

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As far too many people affected by lung cancer know all too well, emergency hospital admission is still the most common route to diagnosis.

In England, around 40% of people with lung cancer first reach specialist care via an emergency admission to hospital and that’s a ‘travesty’ according to a report published today by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC).

Sadly, patients diagnosed via emergency admission are over five times more likely to die within one year of diagnosis than those referred for treatment by their GP.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said,“We consider it a national disgrace that, in 2020, we still see such a high proportion of people with lung cancer getting diagnosed only after being admitted to an A&E department.

“As the report says, this is a travesty. It’s unjust on those people who don’t have their lung cancer diagnosed earlier – they deserve better.  

“From our very start 30 years ago, this charity has campaigned vigorously to promote awareness of lung cancer and its symptoms and to improve routes to early diagnosis, which is the key to better survival rates.

“This is why we backed lung health check projects which provided valuable data supporting the case for a national programme of such schemes.  

“It’s why we’ve campaigned to promote awareness that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, and that misconceptions among both the general public and health care professionals are costing lives.

“We must get this right. Lung cancer kills more of our people than any other cancer; we firmly believe that everyone affected by lung cancer in the UK has the right to expect better”.     

The UKLCC’s report, ‘Early Diagnosis Matters: Making the Case for the Early and Rapid Diagnosis of Lung Cancer’, lays out key recommendations for diagnosing lung cancer earlier in order to increase survival. These include:

– The National Lung Cancer Audit (NLCA), which collects data on lung cancer treatments and outcomes, must continue uninterrupted and better define the nature and potential causes of variation at regional and local level

– Public awareness and action campaigns focused on lung cancer should be funded every year – alongside regional and local campaigns to support improved understanding of signs and symptoms

– Stop-smoking services should be encouraged to use their contact with smokers to increase awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer and the value of early detection

– The new 28-day cancer Faster Diagnosis Standard and National Lung Cancer Pathway must be comprehensively rolled-out across England

– The wider healthcare community, including nurses and pharmacists, must be able to refer someone who they suspect might have lung cancer for a Chest X-ray

– Clarity should be provided as to whose remit a lung cancer screening programme should fall under. The roll out of lung health checks must also be supported by effective processes with robust, nationally centralised data collection, collation and evaluation programme. 

The report also includes examples of best practice – demonstrating how certain NHS Trusts are working effectively to make the earlier diagnosis of lung cancer happen.

Paula Chadwick added: “We call for the urgent implementation of all the key recommendations laid out in this vital report. We have to become quicker, more adept and much more effective at getting people diagnosed and into the treatment pathway.

“It’s time for action to save lives by improving early diagnosis of lung cancer”.