Leeds lung screening trial checks 5600 people for early signs of cancer

Date: 11 November 2020

More than 5600 people living in Leeds have now been checked for early signs of lung cancer through a pioneering lung screening trial funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

The Leeds Lung Health Check, launched in November 2018 with clinical support from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, was the first service of its kind in the UK to return to normal service following the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

After introducing ‘Covid-secure’ measures, including social distancing and personal protective equipment, the research team was able to continue making appointments for the life-saving scans.

The service will now continue as normal through the second national lockdown in England, and members of the public are being urged to continue to attend appointments if invited.

More than 100 cancers have now been diagnosed through the trial, with the majority found at an early stage.

The lung health checks, which include a special type of x-ray called a screening CT scan, are designed to help people at higher risk of lung cancer get treatment before they experience any symptoms.

Appointments take place on a mobile unit that travels to locations across Leeds, including supermarket and shopping centre car parks, making it easier for people to take part.

Patients found to have early-stage cancer through the Leeds Lung Health Check programme have gone on to receive surgery and curative radiotherapy despite the pandemic.

Professor Mat Callister from Leeds Teaching Hospitals said: “Early on in the pandemic, some of our hospital cancer services were affected. However, we quickly got things back up and running again and have been running a normal Lung Cancer Service in Leeds Teaching Hospitals for many months now. 

“The Leeds Lung Health Check was the first of the lung health check services in the country to get restarted. We altered the process on the unit to keep people safe and allow the team to continue this really important work. It’s vital that people attend their appointments for these life-saving scans, even during the second lockdown. Members of the public are still allowed to leave their homes for medical purposes.”

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in Yorkshire. In 2017, 4,317 people were diagnosed with lung cancer in Yorkshire, and 3,078 people died from it1. Incidence rates in Leeds and Yorkshire are much higher than the national average1.

Lung cancer is frequently diagnosed at a late stage when treatment options are more limited and survival rates are lower.

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

Professor Callister said:

“Yorkshire Cancer Research has supported us through all the challenges of getting our Lung Health Check service restarted during the pandemic. We’re really grateful to them and most importantly their supporters throughout Yorkshire who raise the funds to enable us to continue this vital service and research.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Chief Medical Officer, Dr Phil Wood, said: “This is a really important study which addresses some crucial questions about the effectiveness of screening but also helps to address underlying issues of equality by working in areas of relative deprivation across Leeds. We’re proud to be partnering with Yorkshire Cancer Research in this way.”

Richard Neal, Professor of Primary Care Oncology at the University of Leeds and a GP in the city, said: “This is a unique collaboration between the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, and is a flagship study for the city and the region. It has the potential to benefit very many people in Leeds, and beyond into the future.”

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