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How a trip to the supermarket might save your life…

12:00am | & Health

LUNG cancer scanning trucks that operate from supermarket car parks are being rolled out across the country in a drive to save lives by catching the condition early.

Around £70 million from NHS England will fund 10 projects that check those most at risk, inviting them for an on-the-spot chest scan and free MOT for their lungs at the mobile clinics. The targeted screening will help improve survival rates by going directly to some of the areas with the highest death rates from lung cancer.

A recent study showed CT screening reduced deaths from lung cancer by 26% in men and between 39% and 61% in women. Using the screening trucks could reach around 600,000 people over four years, detecting approximately 3,400 cancers and saving hundreds of lives across the country.

Cally Palmer, national cancer director at NHS England, said: “Catching more cancers early is a cornerstone of the NHS Long Term Plan to save a further 55,000 lives a year and targeted lung health checks is one of the first projects to roll-out. These new projects will save lives – early diagnosis for cancer is crucial as it is easier to treat, not only saving lives, but it will also mean thousands of patients will avoid life changing treatments.”

The NHS is initially extending the programme to 10 new schemes across the country at a cost of around £70 million over four years. Places covered by the schemes include Newcastle and Gateshead; Tameside and Glossop; Knowsley and Halton; Blackburn, Darwen and Blackpool; North Kirklees; Doncaster; the Humber coast; Thurrock and Luton; Corby, Mansfield and Ashfield; and Southampton.

Based on successful pilot schemes in Manchester and Liverpool, the projects will not just identify more cancers quickly, but pick up a range of other health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People aged 55 to 74 who have been identified as being at increased risk of lung cancer will be invited for a lung health check and offered a chest scan if appropriate – this scan could take place in a mobile unit or in a hospital setting.

The Manchester project scanned 2,541 patients and found 65 lung cancers affecting 61 patients. Prior to the study 18% of lung cancers were diagnosed at stage one and 48% stage four. After the study, 68% of lung cancers were diagnosed at stage one and 11% were stage four. The Manchester scheme also picked up a range of other heart and lung conditions

Four in five cancers were in the early stages (stage one and two), with one in five people having a previously undiagnosed lung condition and nine out of 10 at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “We welcome this announcement confirming the roll-out of 10 lung health check projects across England. Given our own first-hand knowledge of these programmes, coupled with the staggering results from the trial which saw a 26% reduction in mortality when high-risk patients had a CT scan, this is a big step forward in improving the early detection of lung cancer.

“I remember when we first met Bill Simpson, one of the people whose lung cancer was detected early through our lung health check in Nottingham. He said something that still echoes in my ears: ‘If I hadn’t had gone for that scan, I could have been dead in a years’ time.’

“This has been the reality for lung cancer; people living unbeknown with the disease and the tumour growing, undetected, until there is nothing that can be done. But now, this multi-million-pound investment means there are going to be more people like Bill. More people for whom something can be done. More lives that can be saved.”

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