People in deprived areas are now more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage, thanks to NHS England’s targeted screening programme.
NHS England credited its ‘lung trucks’ – which target the areas of the country with the lowest lung cancer survival rates – with bringing early diagnosis rates in the most deprived areas up from 30% in 2019 to 34.5% in 2022.
The news comes as NHS England is awaiting direction from the Department of Health and Social Care regarding the rollout of a national lung cancer screening programme.
Since their launch in 2018, the lung MOTs, located in mobile trucks in supermarket carparks, have screened 313,387 patients, diagnosing more than 1,750 people with cancer at 43 sites across England.
The mobile trucks scan those most at risk from lung cancer, including current and ex-smokers, inviting them for an on-the-spot chest scan for those at the highest risk.
Over three-quarters (76%) of patients diagnosed via the scheme were caught at stage one or two, compared with just a third caught at early stages in 2018.
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.
NHS England’s national director for cancer Dame Cally Palmer said: ‘These findings are incredibly important – they show the power behind targeted health programmes with the NHS continuing its drive to detect cancers earlier by going into the heart of communities that may be less likely to come forward.
‘While early diagnosis rates for cancer have traditionally been lower for deprived groups, thanks to the rollout of lung trucks, the NHS has turned a huge corner – and is now finding and treating those who would otherwise have been undetected.
‘The NHS will not stop in its efforts to go out and find more cancers at an earlier point, when easier to treat, so if you have had an invite, 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.’
Health minister Helen Whately said: ‘Catching lung cancer early saves lives, which is why we’re prioritising early diagnosis for those most at risk.
‘These figures show how care closer to home for 300,000 people, using NHS lung trucks, has potentially saved over 1,750 lives.
‘We’re laser-focused on fighting cancer on all fronts – prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, backed up with funding and research – and alongside these mobile trucks we have also opened 100 community diagnostic centres, which have delivered over 3.6 million additional tests, checks and scans, including lung checks.’
The NHS has teamed with the Roy Castle Lung Foundation on a new campaign encouraging the hundreds of thousands of people who are invited each month to take up the potentially lifesaving scan.
The campaign will be running over the coming months across social media, through online advertising and on posters in areas where lung checks are operating.
Under the plans, screening would be targeted at high-risk people aged 55-to-74 years with a history of smoking and be integrated with smoking cessation services.
In its recommendation the committee said the Targeted Lung Health Checks pilot scheme was a practical starting point for putting screening in place but more modelling was needed to implement a UK-wide programme.