24th April 2023

Over three quarters of lung cancers caught early through lung health checks

View all Early detection

Over 1,750 people have been diagnosed with lung cancer through NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Check programme, with a staggering 76% caught at stages one and two.

Lung MOTs, or targeted lung health checks, launched in 2018 in areas of the country with the lowest lung cancer survival rates, with checks currently available to those most at risk of developing lung cancer.

To date, more than 300,000 (313,387) people have already taken up the offer to have their lungs checked and for the first time ever, new data shows more than a third of people diagnosed with lung cancer from the most deprived fifth of England were diagnosed at stage one or two in 2022 (34.5%) – up from 30% in 2019.

As part of the biggest programme to improve earlier cancer detection in health history, the NHS now has teamed up with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation on a new campaign encouraging the hundreds of thousands of people who are invited each month to take up the potentially lifesaving scan.

The campaign will be running over the coming months across social media, through online advertising and on posters in areas where lung checks are operating.

Paula Chadwick is the chief executive of the UK’s leading lung cancer charity, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation:

“It is truly heartening to see the wonderful progress being made in the early detection of lung cancer because of the targeted lung health check programme.

These checks are allowing us to get ahead of lung cancer for the first time, catching the disease at the earliest opportunity, often before symptoms even start, and treating it with an aim to cure.

“So many people have already benefitted from having a lung health check but there are also a lot of people who have been invited and not taken up the opportunity, so I urge anyone who receives an invitation to have the check – even if you feel well, even if you have no symptoms, even if you’re convinced there’s nothing wrong! You have been invited for a reason and when it comes to lung cancer, it is always best to check.”

The new campaign highlights the often asymptomatic nature of early-stage lung cancer to a bid to encourage those invited to have their check even if they feel well and have no symptoms.

“Thanks to the hugely successful of symptom awareness campaigns run over the past decade, there is a better understanding of potential lung cancer symptoms, such as a persistent cough,” continues Paula. “However, this knowledge may actually be hindering attendance of the lung health check.

“People understandably presume with a disease as serious as lung cancer, you would have adequate warning signs like a cough or shortness of breath. They therefore assume that because they don’t have these symptoms, or are generally well in themselves, they don’t need the check. Our new campaign explains that this isn’t necessarily the case, and it is always best to get checked out.”

People diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those whose cancer is caught late.

Now at 43 sites across the country, the mobile trucks scan those most at risk from lung cancer, including current and ex-smokers, inviting them for an on-the-spot chest scan for those at the highest risk. Advice to help people stop smoking is also provided to those who attend.

Not only do the lung trucks scan for cancer, but they have also identified thousands of people with other undiagnosed conditions including respiratory and cardiovascular disease, enabling them to access the treatment they need earlier, and helping to prevent potential hospitalisations.