On Wednesday 2nd December, Derek Twigg MP (Labour, Halton) held a Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on the lung cancer pathway‘.
Mr Twigg began the debate by highlighting a recent report published by UKLCC, COVID-19 Matters, on the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer before telling the story of the final six months of a patient who had developed Stage IV lung cancer during the pandemic.
During his speech, Mr Twigg drew comparison between lung and breast cancer, noting how, despite breast cancer being the most common cancer, its survival rate is better than that of lung cancer’s due to, on average, it being detected earlier.
Mr Twigg then noted that there will likely be a backlog of lung cancer cases following the COVID-19 pandemic and that many people who had a cough may have misdiagnosed themselves as having COVID-19. He urged all those who suspect they may have symptoms to visit their GP and referenced the charity’s work in addressing this with our Still Here campaign.
Mr Twigg closed his speech by calling on the Government to follow the UKLCC’s recommendations and resume lung cancer screening programmes at the earliest opportunity. Mr Twigg drew on recommendations from the report to request that GPs make more referrals for chest X-rays, and that GPs should screen those most at risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer as early as they can – specifically mentioning that this was crucial in high risk areas such as his constituency of Halton.
In response, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, Jo Churchill MP, thanked Mr Twigg for his speech and agreed that the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer needs to be looked at further, and that the Government was doing everything it could to ensure services get back to normal. Ms Churchill then highlighted the funding for additional diagnostic equipment for the NHS as outlined in the Chancellors spending review last week, and how this would support earlier diagnosis of lung cancer.
Ms Churchill then raised the success of the lung health check pilots, which had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and mentioned how she was keen for the programme to be “turbocharged” moving forwards. She closed the debate by noting how the Cancer Recovery Taskforce, which was set up in September of this year to kick-start the recovery of cancer services across the NHS in England, is involving cancer charities, clinicians and other stakeholders to drive forward the objectives similar to those suggested in the UKLCC report. This will ensure that patients get treatment, that system pathways are clear and understandable for patients, and that capacity across the system is improved.
Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, is grateful Mr Twigg for giving lung cancer this necessary platform:
“We would like to thank Derek Twigg MP for speaking out on this important issue.
Prior to the pandemic, there was finally a focus on lung cancer and, as a result, we have made significant progress in recent years. The UK is now spending more on lung cancer research than ever before. There are more life-lengthening treatments for people with late stage lung cancer. Life saving treatments are getting better and less invasive and, of course, the roll out of lung health checks in England, taking us a step closer to a national lung cancer screening programme. This has all contributed to an increase in lung cancer survival rates, most notably 10-year survival which has now doubled.
We must do everything we can to minimise the impact of Covid-19 any further and previous maintain the momentum behind lung cancer.
We are incredibly grateful that Mr Twigg shares this passionate and commitment. We must come together if we are to bring lung cancer out of the shadow of Covid-19.”