14th March 2022

National lung cancer screening now under public consultation

View all Early detection

The National Screening Committee (NSC) has launched its public consultation on a national lung screening programme.

From 11th March until 8th June, the NSC is currently accepting public comments on this condition from professionals, organisations and members of the public, including patients and family members who have experienced the condition.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, is calling on supporters to make their voices heard:

“This is incredible news and takes us a significant step forward in achieving one of our primary objectives – a national screening programme for lung cancer.

We know that screening for lung cancer works and now, with the excellent work of the targeted lung health checks which have seen a 77% of cancers being diagnosed at stage 1 or 2, we have the evidence to make what was a pipedream 30 years ago a reality.

We are now calling on our supporters to make their voices heard and submit comments to the consultation before it closes on 8th June 2022.”

How lung cancer screening works

Pilot lung cancer screening projects have been running for many years. In 2019, NHS England launched its targeted lung health check programme working in areas where lung cancer is most prevalent.

The programmes, many of which Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation are supporting, are seeing excellent results with 77% of cancers diagnosed at early stage when curative-intent treatment is possible.

Harry Burn was invited to the check up in Stoke. He had no concerns about going for his appointment and certainly didn’t expect to be diagnosed with lung cancer because he felt fit and well:

“I thought I was pretty fit. They confirmed that I did have a nodule in the right lung. I’d also got calcification of the heart, a problem with the parotid gland in the neck and also mild emphysema. So at that point I thought Oh! Perhaps I’m not as fit as I thought I was!

I honestly don’t know what would have happened had I have not gone for the check up. I don’t think I would have gone to my doctor with the cough or the breathlessness because I just presumed it was one of those things, so I probably would have carried on in the same vein and things most probably would have got worse. Instead, I can look forward to growing old.”

Postcode lottery

Harry’s story highlights the importance of these interventions. However, even with the Targeted Lung Health Check programme set to expand in April, it remains a postcode lottery as to who can attend.

“This is why a national programme is essential,” continues Paula. “At the moment, only a small proportion of people in England can access the lung health checks, and there are no current programmes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

A national screening programme is just that – national. It covers the whole of the UK, and whilst like the three existing screening programmes there will be criteria such as age, it is a gigantic step forward in saving thousands and thousands of lives.”