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Former and current smokers to be called up for lung cancer screening

Current and former smokers aged 55 to 74 will be screened and risk assessed for lung cancer under new plans to tackle England’s growing lung cancer epidemic.

Current and former smokers aged 55 to 74 will be screened and risk assessed for lung cancer under new plans to tackle England’s growing lung cancer epidemic.

In the UK, one in 13 males and one in 15 females will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime, yet 79% of lung cancer cases are preventable.

The targeted lung cancer screening therefore aims to detect cancer sooner, speeding up diagnosis and enabling more people to access the treatment they need at an earlier stage, which improves chances of survival.

Lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancer, and this is largely attributed to lung cancer being caught at a late stage when it is much harder to treat. This is because lung cancer symptoms are often undiscernible until the disease is well advanced, with around four in 10 cases presenting in A&E.

Those at risk of lung cancer will be reinvited for scans every two years

The new programme will see around 992,000 scans performed each year, with as many as 9,000 people given an early lung cancer diagnosis.

Since its launch in 2019, the pilot programme has already seen 900,000 people come forward for checks, with 375,000 risk assessments made and 200,000 scans carried out.

The checks saw around 2,000 lung cancer patients in deprived areas of England receive a lung cancer diagnosis, 76% at an earlier stage compared to 29% in 2019 outside of the programme.

Anyone assessed as being at high risk of lung cancer will be referred to have a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan and subsequent diagnosis and treatment if needed. Those whose scans are negative will be re-invited for further scans every 24 months, until they pass the upper age limit.

Some people who test negative but are found to have nodules will be asked to come in for more frequent scans. These nodules are often the first signs of cancer developing so by monitoring more frequently if they turn cancerous they can be dealt with quickly and at the early stages.

Tackling health inequalities

Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay said the expansion of the lung screen programme is part of the government’s plan to reduce health inequalities and tackle some of the long-term challenges facing the NHS.

“Through our screening programme we are now seeing more diagnoses at stage 1 and stage 2 in the most deprived communities which is both a positive step and a practical example of how we are reducing health inequalities.

“Rolling this out further will prolong lives by catching cancer earlier and reducing the levels of treatment required not just benefiting the patient but others waiting for treatment.

“I am determined to combat cancer on all fronts through better prevention, detection, treatment and research,” he said.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, says the scheme will “save lives” by enabling earlier diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.T

“As the NHS turns 75, we will not stop in our efforts to detect more cancers earlier, when they are easier to treat, and to find new and innovative ways to make it as easy as possible for those most at risk to get life-saving tests as part of their daily routines.

“If you receive an invitation, please do take it up, and if you are worried about a possible symptom of cancer, please come forward to your GP – getting checked could save your life,” she said.

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