Life-saving lung screening trial celebrates third anniversary

Date: 21 December 2021

A pioneering lung screening trial that is saving lives in Leeds by finding cancer early is celebrating its third anniversary.

The Leeds Lung Health Check, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, is offering people living in Leeds who are at high risk of lung cancer a special type of x-ray called a screening CT scan.

The scans take place on a mobile unit that travels to supermarket and shopping centre car parks around Leeds, allowing people to attend appointments close to where they live.

Since the multimillion-pound programme began in November 2018, 6,650 people have been scanned and more than 200 cancers have been diagnosed.

The majority of cancers have been found at an early stage, allowing those diagnosed the opportunity to access life-saving treatment.

Many patients diagnosed through the programme have gone on to be treated with surgery or a short course of radiotherapy and have recovered well.

The project is led by Professor Mat Callister, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

He said: “The Lung Health Check programme continues to save lives in Yorkshire as it enters its fourth year. Hundreds of people each month are attending their screening CT scans.

“Most people are reassured that their scans are normal, but each week we are finding people with early-stage lung cancers that they were completely unaware of. By finding these cancers early, we are able to offer life-saving treatment. We’re hugely grateful to Yorkshire Cancer Research for their continued funding of this important programme.”

The Leeds Lung Health Check, delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, is one of the largest lung screening trials currently running in the world.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic led to a temporary pause in the trial, the programme returned to full service in July 2020, and has since continued to offer scans in a Covid-secure environment.

The programme was designed to provide best practice guidance and collect the evidence required to implement a national lung screening programme.

Some of the findings have already been incorporated into the NHS England Targeted Lung Health Check Programme, which is testing the introduction of lung screening in areas with high levels of lung cancer cases.

Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “Our goal is that at least 2,000 more people survive cancer each year. Given that almost 1 in 4 of all deaths from cancer in our region are because of lung cancer, it’s crucial that we try and tackle the poor survival rates from the disease.

“The benefits of screening are clear to see. The Leeds Lung Health Check is saving lives and reducing the devastating impact that lung cancer has on hundreds of families in the city. As a charity, we are extremely proud to have funded this important programme.

“A national lung cancer screening programme would help to cut the number of deaths from this disease and help more people in our region live longer and healthier lives. We believe there is now more than enough evidence to implement a screening programme across the country.”

Those invited to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check are people identified as being at a higher risk of lung cancer. Those aged between 55 and 80, who either currently smoke or have smoked in the past, are contacted by their GP to attend the screening van.

Those attending appointments are offered the opportunity to speak to a stop smoking specialist while on the unit. They can then go on to access up to 12 weeks of support, including counselling and access to nicotine replacement therapy, such as gum or patches, or vaping products. So far, more than 2,000 people have taken up the offer.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Yorkshire. About 4,300 people are diagnosed with it every year in the region.

Because lung cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms at an early stage, it is frequently diagnosed late when treatment options are more limited and survival rates are lower. The screenings help detect lung cancer before any signs or symptoms develop, when it is usually easier to treat.

Following additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research, the Leeds Lung Health Check is now also offering scans to check for signs of cancer in the kidneys.


Richard’s experience

Richard Foster, a deputy head teacher from Leeds, was first invited for a screening in July 2019.

Initially putting it off, Richard booked an appointment to attend the Leeds Lung Health Check after receiving a follow-up letter.

Two weeks after his scan, he was contacted to speak to Professor Mat Callister, who told him that his scan had shown a growth which they believed was cancer.

Richard said: “Had I left it, I would have been looking at a significantly different diagnosis.”

Luckily, the cancer was found early, and Richard had surgery to remove it.

He continued: “I can’t overstate the impact that Yorkshire Cancer Research and the project has had on my life. I know that I wouldn’t have stopped smoking had I not gone. Without a doubt, it saved my life.”


Lynne’s experience

Lynne Luty was diagnosed with lung cancer after receiving an invitation to attend the Leeds Lung Health Check.

“They really put you at ease” she said, “I watched a video and answered some questions, then I had my scan before going to see the stop smoking nurse.”

The 68-year-old was aware of the need to monitor her lung health as a smoker. Lynne had also lost her dad to lung cancer.

After she was diagnosed, Lynne had surgery to remove a third of her lung. The scan meant that the cancer was caught very early, and it was able to be entirely removed, which meant she needed no further treatment.

She said: “I class myself as very lucky that I was invited to go to the screening. If I hadn’t, my story would have been very different. I think it’s vitally important that this project keeps going and is rolled out across the country.

“The funding that Yorkshire Cancer Research provides for research like the Leeds Lung Health Check is absolutely amazing. It saved my life.”

 Find out more about the work funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research


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