People are now more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage thanks to the success of NHS mobile CT scanning (a type of x-ray).
The mobile scanners launched at three Bradford GP practices in 2019 and 37 more from 2022 as part of an NHS England pilot, and they have already made an impact on earlier diagnoses.
Since then, more than 2,800 people have had a CT scan, which has identified over 100 suspected lung cancers and over 90 further undiagnosed conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Following the success of the pilot NHS England has announced the programme will be expanded to all GP practices in Bradford District and Craven.
The rollout is expected to begin in 2023/2024 and plans are being developed to ensure that 55 – 74 year old smokers or ex-smokers can access the mobile scanner and any onward hospital referrals near to where they live.
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.
Lung Health Checks are offered to people by a letter, text or phone call from their GP surgery. Following an initial assessment those most at risk from lung cancer, including current and ex-smokers, are then invited for a Lung CT scan at a mobile CT Unit.
Maxine Johnson from Bradford is an ex-smoker who was invited for a lung check in September 2022. Following a scan in a mobile unit in a car park in Girlington, a nodule was found in her lung and she received an early diagnosis of lung cancer.
Maxine said: “I didn’t have any symptoms but I went for the scan because I was a smoker. I didn’t think I did have cancer so it was a bit of a shock when I got that diagnosis.
“The treatment was a whirlwind. A few days after the scan I got a call asking for me to go to St Luke’s to see a lung specialist. I went there and tests started – I had a PET scan, lung function test and blood tests. I then had to go for a lung biopsy at Bradford Royal Infirmary.
“About a week after these tests I saw the lung nurse specialist and she said I had cancer and it was early stages. We then talked through an operation and what they would do – I had to have a pre-assessment, ECG. It was stage one, so I was really lucky.
“Please don’t be nervous if you’re invited, it’s so important. It’s best to catch it early, like mine was. It saved my life. It could have been maybe five years and it would have been too late for me.”
Dr Sohail Abbas, Reducing Inequalities Alliance Director at Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, said:
“People in the most deprived areas of our district are living with more ill health and dying earlier than those in the least deprived.
“The rollout of the lung health CT Units will help us turn a corner in helping to address unfair and avoidable differences in access to preventative lung health checks across the population and between different groups in society.
“It’s clear from the success of the pilot having these early detection tests in the heart of communities where people are less likely to come forward will help save lives – by finding and treating those who would otherwise have been undetected.
“Finding cancer in its early stages means it’s much easier to treat, so if you’re invited, please take it up, and as ever, if you are showing any signs of cancer, please come forward to your GP – getting checked could save your life.”
Jason Pawluk, Programme Director of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, said:
“Within West Yorkshire and Harrogate there are two live Targeted Lung Health Check programme sites, in Bradford and North Kirklees. However, further expansion up to 2027 aims to cover the remaining population across the area to support earlier diagnosis of lung cancer.
“In addition to the two current projects, there has also been further pilots such as the Yorkshire Lung Screening programme in Leeds, a trial, supported by Yorkshire Cancer Research.
“All eligible patients will be invited to attend a health check, there is no need to call. The process is very straightforward and offers convenient appointments. Crucially, they can provide peace of mind and improve early cancer detection, saving lives.”
Not only do the mobile CT Units 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.
Smoking causes more than seven in ten lung cancer cases in the UK. Previous trials have shown that CT screening reduced lung cancer mortality by 26% in men and between 39% and 61% in women.