Geoff Rodley, from Pudsey, had tried everything he could to stop smoking. Even with the support of his family, he’d struggled to quit for good.
Giving up cigarettes had become an endless cycle of stopping and starting, with the urge for nicotine eventually becoming too much to resist.
It was only when Geoff visited the Leeds Lung Health Check, a pioneering lung screening programme funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, that he finally received the one-to-one stop smoking support he’d needed for so many years.
“I started smoking when I was 30,” Geoff, 66, explained. “My partner at the time and my friends were all smokers. I was young and still going out, having a drink at the weekend and enjoying life.
“I thought ‘I’ll just have one, I’ll just have two’ and then before I knew it I was addicted. I couldn’t relax without a cigarette. Smoking became part of my ‘getting home from work’ ritual, taking my work persona off and then putting on some relaxing music and having a glass of wine. It was all part and parcel of that process.
“I had all the bad feelings when I tried to give it up – all the withdrawal symptoms. It was very disappointing for me not being able to quit.”
When Geoff received a letter in the post inviting him to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check, he realised it was important he get checked for any early signs of lung disease.
He went along to an appointment at the programme’s mobile unit while it was based at his local Asda supermarket in Pudsey.
After his lung health check, which included a special type of x-ray called a CT scan, Geoff decided to take up an offer of stop smoking support provided through the Yorkshire Stop Smoking Study – another programme funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Around 7 in 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking. As part of the study, up to 12 weeks of stop smoking support is being offered to all people attending a scan who currently smoke. Those who choose to take up the offer can see a specialist advisor straight away while at the mobile unit.
More than 4,000 people who smoke or used to smoke have now been scanned for early signs of lung disease through the Leeds Lung Health Check, and of those over 500 have taken up the offer of help to quit smoking.
Geoff said: “I went along to the mobile unit and I was very impressed. They were very professional and made me feel at ease. I realised this was a very positive thing to be doing. The stop smoking support wasn’t forced on me, but I felt that I should take advantage of it while I was there.”
Geoff received one-to-one counselling with a specialist advisor and was offered a range of nicotine replacement therapy options such as patches, chewing gum, inhalators, e-cigarettes and prescription medicine.
“When I actually started using things that could help, like the patches and gum, tobacco started losing its hold on me,” Geoff said: “I wished I’d done it years ago, because they really did work. If I started feeling any cravings I’d just have some chewing gum and within five minutes the craving had gone.
“Having the support of a counsellor too was fantastic. She was always getting in touch asking how I was doing, giving me encouragement and supporting me. I felt I wasn’t doing it alone.”
The Yorkshire Stop Smoking Study is testing the best ways to encourage people to stop smoking after they’ve had a lung health check.
All participants receive access to ongoing behavioural support, nicotine replacement therapies and e-cigarettes. Some participants are also given information and images of their lungs to see if this can increase the likelihood of success.
Four weeks after his initial appointment, Geoff was shown his own scan result. Although his lungs were clear, there were early signs of damage to his heart caused by smoking.
“There was a tiny white spot on my heart,” Geoff explained. “I was told it was calcification of one of my cardiac arteries. Mortality hit me in the face then. It was a reality check. I thought about my daughter, grandchildren, family and friends. It brought home to me that something had to be done, and it was up to me to do something.”
Geoff has continued to stay off cigarettes and uses a nicotine patch whenever he feels a craving. As well as saving money, Geoff has noticed immediate benefits to his health.
He added: “I have more energy, my cough has almost disappeared and I just feel 100 times better than I did before. I’m saving about £30-40 a month, which I’m now spending on fruit, grains and other food that will make me more healthy.
“I’m so glad I got that letter about the Leeds Lung Health Check and went along. It changed my life. It’s all due to Yorkshire Cancer Research really caring about the community and wanting to make people’s lives better. I’m now healthier, full of motivation and confidence, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Yorkshire Cancer Research is funding stop smoking support at lung health check programmes across the region.