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GP practice lung cancer screening programme boosts early detection

A GP practice-based, nurse-led screening programme in one of the UK  city’s with the highest rates of lung cancer mortality and COPD is set to be expanded after significantly improving early detection in its first year.

Liverpool’s Healthy Lung Programme is going to be rolled out to other parts of the city and screen patients aged 58 to 75 (previously 70) after showing modest investment had significant health benefits – particularly relative to breast, bowel and cervical screening.

In all, 75% of people who received a diagnosis did so in Stage 1, while typically 70% of patients diagnosed in Liverpool are picked up until Stage 3 or 4.

This amounts to a five-year survival rate of 30% where typically it would be 10% or less in Liverpool.

The scheme invited previous or current smokers in areas with high incidences of lung cancer to nurse run ‘lung health clinics’ which estimated their risk of developing lung cancer in the next five years.

GP cancer lead for Liverpool CCG, Ed Gaynor, said the findings show ‘a measurable impact on people’s lung health by increasing early detection’ in particularly susceptible communities.

He added: ‘Nearly 2,000 people attended one of these events, and just over 800 people took a spirometry breathing test whilst they were there, with around 1 in 5 (18%) of those tested found to have abnormal results, which triggered a referral into primary care for further testing and support for COPD and other lung diseases.’

19 lung cancers have been found at an early, pre-symptomatic stage and treated as part of the Healthy Lung programme so far, which equates to 1-2 cancers prevented per month.

Paula McCann-Finney, a specialist lung nurse on the scheme said they worked in a practice setting, but ‘there’s no need to see a GP or another doctor for a second opinion, it’s all done right there for the patient on the day in a single clinic appointment.’

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