Potential patients to be screened for lung cancer in shop car parks

SOME potential cancer patients could be offered screening in shopping-centre car parks in a bid to boost early diagnosis rates.

Potential lung cancer patients in some regions of the country will be invited to community mobile screening units in a bid to catch their cancer early, NHS England will announce.

A pilot that took place in Manchester saw potential cancer patients invited for a lung health check. People with a history of smoking aged 55 to 74 were invited for CT scans at mobile units – which were placed in shopping-centre car parks or community hubs.

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During the pilot, for every 33 people screened, one case of cancer was detected. The pilot, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, was carried out on 2,500 people with a history of smoking. During the trial, four in five of the cancers discovered were at stage one or stage two – or earlier in the disease progression.

Now NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has announced plans to roll out the scheme in four areas across the country. The Manchester project will be extended and three other cancer hubs will also get the green light to provide similar screening services including ones in London, the North and part of Yorkshire.

Speaking at the Economist War On Cancer event in London, Mr Stevens will say: “NHS cancer care is the best it’s ever been, with cancer survival increasing every year.

“Over the next 18 months the NHS will be rolling out new mobile and home screening kits to detect cancers earlier, when they can be treated best.”

Dany Bell, specialist adviser for treatment and recovery at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “The earlier that someone is diagnosed with cancer, the better their chance of successful treatment is.

“So it’s great news that this pilot scheme is now going to be rolled out across other parts of England. Lung cancer is a notoriously difficult type to diagnose at an early stage, and initiatives such as this make it easier for high-risk people to get their health checked.”

Paula Chadwick, chief executive at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “This is great news. Early detection is key to improving cancer survival rates; it’s working for breast, bowel and cervical cancer. Now it is time to finally focus on lung cancer.

“We know that when lung cancer is caught early, survival rates significantly improve so scanning high-risk patients means we are able to identify patients earlier and offer curative treatment.”

Dr Nick Hopkinson, honorary medical adviser for the British Lung Foundation, added: “The rollout of this scheme is welcome news. By the time lung cancer causes symptoms it is usually too late for it to be cured. CT screening tests mean that it can be picked up at a much earlier stage.”

The news comes as a new audit has found that lung cancer operations have reached a record high. Survival rates for patients a month and three months after having undergone such procedures have reached the best ever levels, according to the audit. The report, from the Royal College of Physicians, shows there were 5,936 lung cancer removal operations in English hospitals during the 2015 calendar year – an increase from 5,657 in 2014.

Meanwhile, patients in Scotland have become the first in the world to use a new scanner which has been likened to “100 MRIs in one”.

A team of researchers at the University of Aberdeen have scanned the first set of patients with their prototype Fast Field Cycling MRI scanner.