“If they can scan everyone for kidney cancer while they’re on the unit, it can only be a good thing.”
When Andrew MacNamara received a letter in the post inviting him to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check, he ignored it.
“The only time I’d go to the doctors was if I was dying in my bed. If I was half-dying I would be on my way to work. I’d just take a pain killer and be on my way,” admits Andrew, a lift engineer from Tingley.
The 57-year-old also ignored a second invitation to take part in the pioneering lung screening trial, which is saving lives in Leeds by finding cancer early when it is easier to treat.
But when his wife received an invitation from her GP surgery, he eventually made a phone call to the clinical trial team and booked an appointment.
“We phoned up to make an appointment for my wife, but they persuaded me that it could be beneficial for me too,” Andrew explains. “The mobile unit was at our local Asda, so it was easy for me to drop in.”
In February 2020, Andrew went along to his appointment. He had a special type of x-ray called a screening CT scan and a lung function test.
After a few days, Andrew received a phone call from St James’s University Hospital asking him to go there for a further scan.
He said: “They told me something had shown up on the scan I’d had for my lungs. They had caught the top of my kidney on the lung scan and noticed that it was enlarged, they said I needed a further scan to find out why. I went to hospital for my scan on 20 March, just as we went into lockdown. A week later, the consultant phoned me to tell me I likely had cancer in my kidney, and it had to be removed. I was devastated.”
As the first wave of the pandemic took hold and healthcare workers focused on tackling Covid-19, Andrew was told that there could be a delay in his treatment. But he was contacted to arrange the operation much sooner than expected.
“I had been told it might be June or July before my operation could take place,” Andrew explained. “But it ended up going ahead on 17th April. I had to go into hospital a few days before to have a Covid test. I was shown a picture of my kidney, which had doubled in size, but they explained that it was operable and told me how the procedure would work. It went smoothly. It took about three months to fully recover and be able to do a little bit of exercise.”
Andrew had another scan just before Christmas which showed that the operation had been a success.
“It was a relief to receive the letter giving me the all-clear. I was told that if I hadn’t had my kidney removed, the cancer might have spread and that would have been fatal. They also said that if the cancer had been found at a later stage, I would have had to have drug treatment too. As it was found early, an operation was enough.”
With a 10-second kidney scan now being added to the Leeds Lung Health Check, Andrew is urging people in Leeds to book an appointment at the unit if invited.
“I had absolutely no symptoms. My life was fine. I had a physical job that involved heavy lifting. I wasn’t struggling to get up the stairs or anything like that. But a scan for lung cancer escalated into being diagnosed with both kidney cancer and diabetes – two health problems I had no idea about.
“I think adding kidney scans to the Leeds Lung Health Check is a good thing. I was lucky that the doctors noticed something out of the ordinary on my lung scan, as they caught the top of the kidney, but I then needed to have a separate scan at hospital to fully check my kidneys. If they can scan the whole of the kidneys with the lungs at the same time that will be fantastic.
“I tell people now that they should go to the doctors and attend health appointments. I’ve got a new granddaughter up in Scotland who I haven’t seen yet because of the pandemic. Now, thanks to the Leeds Lung Health Check, I’ll hopefully have many more years to spend with my family and see my grandchildren grow up.”