Our Director of Patient Information and Support, Lorraine Dallas, reflects on a monumental day for our charity and lung cancer.
“Yesterday I was redrafting our lung cancer statistics factsheet. I was pondering what to say about the current situation regarding screening. Today, the National Screening Committee released their minutes stating they were recommending the roll out of a targeted lung cancer screening programme in the UK. The final decision will be made by the UK’s Health Ministers.
At a time when good news isn’t in huge supply, this is incredible news. This is news that our charity has been working and wishing for the three decades of its existence.
Lung cancer screening is vital to a disease that our founder Professor Ray Donnelly, a pioneer of keyhole thoracic surgery, christened “the Cinderella cancer”. The efforts that have gone in to building research and the evidence to make this decision have been life long labours. Screening is not the panacea for lung cancer, but it is a vital step in transforming outcomes and perceptions of the disease.
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has been championing research and support for those with lung cancer for decades. The support of Roy Castle, his widow Fiona and more recently MP James Brokenshire and his wife Cathy have changed assumptions about lung cancer.
This has been a cancer of fear, stigma and stealth for too long. At last, it is changing.
For a period it felt as though lung screening was stuck in a Groundhog Day moment. At conferences there were discussions about the impact of National Lung Cancer Screening Trial in the US, time pending the publication of the European Nelson trial and much discussions about the logistics and modelling of an affordable and implementable screening programme in the UK. NHS England set up the Lung Health Check pilots and then the covid-19 pandemic appeared, refocusing the NHS, threatening our certainties and distorting time like a fair ground mirror distorts your image of yourself.
Why is this change so important?
Because each year 48,5000 people in the UK find out they have lung cancer. Our Ask the Nurse service supports and speaks to people, from the 40 something marathon runners, to the 80 something grandparents who have their worlds turned upside down by a diagnosis. Our online community allows people affected to talk to about their fears and treatment experiences, to ask the question “why did we not know until the cancer had spread?”
If the UK can support more people to be diagnosed earlier, see more people receiving surgery and curative treatment through the skilled and committed care of the NHS lung teams, the work will be worthwhile. This isn’t a start or a solution for lung cancer but it is a major step forward. So we take a moment for gratitude and then press on to make earlier diagnosis, effective treatment and access to support a reality in the years ahead.”