21st November 2017

Lung cancer early detection finally prioritised by NHS

View all Early detection

NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, has today announced a scheme that aims to catch lung cancer early and improve survival rates.

NHS England is now funding scanners as part of a national programme to diagnose lung cancer early, improve the care for those living with lung cancer and ensure each cancer patient gets the right care for them.

Speaking at the Economist War on Cancer event in London, Simon Stevens will say:

“NHS cancer care is the best it’s ever been, with cancer survival increasing every year. Over the next 18 months the NHS will be rolling out new mobile and home screening kits to detect cancers earlier, when they can be treated best.”

A mobile CT scanner will be made available for the project, making it easier for patients to attend appointments

Paula Chadwick, CEO at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, welcomes the announcement:

“This is great news. Early detection is key to improving cancer survival rates; it’s working for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. Now it is time to finally focus on lung cancer, where survival rates are sadly not in line with many other cancers.

“Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in both men and women, largely because the majority of people are diagnosed too late. The average prognosis for a person with lung cancer is just 200 days.

“But we know that when lung cancer is caught early, survival rates significantly improve so scanning high-risk patients means we are able to identify patients earlier and offer curative treatment. This is something we have seen first-hand with our Lung Health MOT check.

“This year we funded a project offering CT scans to high-risk patients in Nottingham and found small nodules on the lungs in almost 5 per cent of cases. Fortunately, these are not currently malignant.

However, these patients will now undergo interval CT scanning to monitor any growth or change and, should this happen, they are likely to be diagnosed at a very early stage and be offered far less radical and curative treatment. In short, they are ‘in the system’.

Without the programme, it is highly likely these patients would have stayed under the radar and remained undiagnosed even if the nodule grew.”

The launch of the Lung Cancer screening project in Bulwell with local MP Graham Allen and Audrey, a patient who took part in the pilot project

This is exactly what happened to patient advocate, Pat Crawford, 68, from West Yorkshire.

She was sent for a scan after suffering from a bad chest infection. The scan revealed a tiny ‘insignificant’ nodule on her right lung. It was recommended that she have a follow up scan in six months as a precaution. The results from that scan showed the nodule had grown to one centimetre.

“The consultant told me ‘it’s good news and bad news’,” she recalls, “meaning it was cancerous but they’d caught it early and I could have surgery. A few weeks later, I had part of my lung removed and, because it was caught early, I didn’t require any further treatment.”

Pat, abseiling down the Liverpool cathedral

Pat Crawford is now five years all clear and celebrated by abseiling down the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral to raise money for Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

She is also part of the charity’s #HeadHigh campaign for Lung Cancer Awareness Month this November. The campaign looks to address the stigma of lung cancer after a global study found one in four people in the UK are less sympathetic to people with lung cancer than those with other types of cancer.

Paula Chadwick added:

“Patients and their loved ones frequently share with us their feelings of judgement, with many even ashamed to even say they have lung cancer. Many also believe that this stigma is why lung cancer receives less funding than other cancers despite it being the biggest cancer killer.

“Lung cancer is the only disease where the first thing out of someone’s mouth is not ‘That’s awful’, ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’ – it’s ‘Did you smoke?’. It’s something the majority of our patients’ experience and it’s not right.

“We are not denying smoking is the main cause of lung cancer so we understand why the stigma exists. What #HeadHigh aims to do is to show the people that lung cancer affects because it really can affect anyone – men and women, young and old, smoker and non-smoker – and it does not define them. They are people first and foremost and they should expect better. And this news that the NHS is funding a national programme means they can finally start to do just that.”

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is the UK’s only lung cancer charity. It has invested millions of pounds into research into the early detection of lung cancer, played a major role in the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places and has supported thousands of people living with lung cancer. Initially known as the Lung Cancer Fund, the charity was renamed five years later after the death of TV presenter and entertainer Roy Castle, who raised over £1million to support the fund in the last year of his life.