Diagnosing cancer early: Gillian’s experience

10 September 2020

“I don’t want to imagine how badly it could have ended up.”

In May 2019, Gillian Shortall attended her first screening appointment at the Leeds Lung Health Check. As a smoker, Gillian was aware that she was at greater risk of getting lung cancer. So when she received a letter inviting her to be screened she knew it was important to attend – even though she didn’t expect anything to be found.

However, her scan showed abnormal growths on her lungs and she was told that she would need another scan in a year’s time to check they hadn’t changed.

In June 2020, following a decline in the number of people being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, Gillian was invited to attend a follow-up screening.

“I wasn’t panicking about the coronavirus risk even though we were in ‘lockdown.’ It has still not felt real to a lot of people, especially if you don’t know anyone who has had it. I felt really safe and looked after on the Leeds Lung Health mobile unit.”

“It was very clean and hygienic, and everyone was really friendly. Everything was explained to me, and the appointment hardly took any time at all.”
Gillian had been working throughout the pandemic and, despite showing no symptoms or signs of illness, the scans showed a 11-12mm sized tumour in her lungs. She was told it was a very early stage cancer.

“I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked.”

Within six weeks, Gillian received an operation to remove the cancer and was discharged from hospital only three and a half days later. Commenting on this, Gillian said, “I couldn’t believe that I could be in and out in such a short space of time.”

She was amazed by how quickly everything happened, especially while the NHS has been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, and is very glad to have attended the appointment when she did. 

“If you get a chance to go and get checked, please do.”

The Leeds Lung Health Check, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, was the first programme of its kind in the UK that returned to normal service after being paused during the pandemic. 

The mobile clinic identifies the very earliest signs that cancer is developing, helping people at higher risk of lung cancer to get treatment before they experience any symptoms. 

Launched in 2018, it is one of the largest lung cancer screening trials in the UK. 

Delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, the multi-million pound trial aims to test screening in community settings and provide information to improve the effectiveness and benefit of future lung screening programmes. 

More than 5,000 people have now been checked for signs of lung cancer, and more than 100 cancers have been diagnosed, with the majority found at an early stage.



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