November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and many healthcare professionals, charities and organisations have been raising awareness of the importance of establishing a targeted national lung screening programme in the UK.
Over 10 years ago, the first UK lung screening trial was implemented in Liverpool and Cambridge with an aim to demonstrate that lung cancer screening in identified high risk groups can result in earlier diagnosis and better treatment options.
The screening included collecting relevant data and importantly a low dose CT scan of the lungs. Analysis of the data included identifying factors that can increase the likelihood of developing cancer such as smoking and exposure to asbestos.
The results of the trial demonstrated that early screening can reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer and importantly be a way of catching cancer early and providing more treatment options.
Around 48,000 people are still diagnosed with lung cancer every year and approximately 35,000 people die every year. It's therefore vital that more is done to improve lung cancer survival treatment rates.
In June, the UK National Screening Committee recommended that targeted screening for lung cancer is implemented for people aged 55 to 74 who have been identified at high risk for lung cancer and the recommendation now sits with the four UK Health Departments to agree.
Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
This year the importance of early screening has been highlighted through an opportunity to support the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation in raising awareness of cancer. A colleague and I were invited to visit the Liverpool Lung Project Research Centre and see first-hand the evidence that has been gathered to support the benefits of early screening.
The charity shared with us the fact that over 800 people had been diagnosed through the programme and 77% of cancers were caught at stage 1 and 2 when cures remain an option.
In addition, many other diseases that can also be identified at an early stage, such as COPD and heart disease, were found.
The charity is now focused on campaigning to raise awareness of the importance of screening due to the fact that only around 35% of people are actually making an appointment to attend for screening when invited.
This is why we decided to support them with their 'On The Right Path' campaign this November to assist them in ensuring that everyone with lung cancer can get diagnosed as soon as possible and on the best treatment for them.
The importance of being 'on the right path' as soon as possible
In my role as a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, I regularly see the importance of being 'on the right path' as soon as possible following the diagnosis of lung cancer, mesothelioma or any other respiratory disease.
It will often provide more treatment options, earlier intervention in relation to care and support and also providing an opportunity to plan for the future which makes a big difference after receiving a life changing diagnosis.
Recently I’ve spoken to many healthcare professionals where targeted lung health checks have started to be implemented and they recognise the important role early screening will play in someone’s pathway and are really positive about being able to deliver the programme in their area.
There are now over 25 areas in England offering targeted lung health checks but clearly we need to continue to push for these to be available everywhere.
Both personally and professionally, I've seen the difference that early detection can make. Instead of having five weeks to spend time with a loved one, you could have years instead.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by mesothelioma and other diseases at our dedicated asbestos-related disease section.