Less than a quarter of lung cancers in the area are diagnosed early, as there are often no early symptoms
A new NHS lung health check is being rolled out across parts of south east London for the first time, to ensure people who are at risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory conditions are diagnosed early.
Residents in Southwark who are aged 55 to 74 and registered as a current or former smoker with their GP, are currently being invited for a free NHS lung health check. The checks can detect lung cancer before symptoms appear, allowing doctors time to treat patients early on when the chances of survival are higher.
Currently, the number of new lung cancer cases in south east London accounts for the highest in London, with the majority of these cases diagnosed at a later stage. In fact, only 24 per cent of lung cancers in south east London are diagnosed early (stage 1 and 2), demonstrating the need to offer these new checks to those most at risk.
The lung health check forms part of the new NHS Targeted Lung Health Check programme, which was first piloted in 2019, across parts of Manchester.
The South East London Cancer Alliance and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust began piloting the programme last month (October), with plans to extend to other parts of south east London next year.
So far, over 4,000 people living in Southwark have received a letter in the post, inviting them to book an initial nurse-led assessment, which will explore chest symptoms and any risk of lung cancer. Those considered to be at high risk will be offered a low dose CT scan of their lungs.
The lung scans are currently taking place in a community van – located at the Asda Superstore in Old Kent Road – to improve healthcare access and minimise travel time for hundreds of residents.
To coincide with the launch of the community van, the South East London Cancer Alliance has launched an eye-catching advertising campaign – appearing on BT Kiosks and in pharmacies and pubs across Southwark.
Running from this week until mid-January 2023, the campaign features striking optical illusion imagery to demonstrate that it’s not only our eyes that can trick us, but also our lungs. The messaging emphasises that some people can potentially have, an undetected lung health condition, despite feeling fine.
Dr Kimuli Ryanna, clinical director for the Targeted Lung Health Check programme in south east London, said: “Catching lung cancer at an early stage can make a big difference to how the disease is treated and improves outcomes for the patient.
“However, we know from a recent YouGov survey that current smokers are less likely than never-smokers to believe that detecting cancer in its early stages improves the chances of successful treatment.
“We hope our Lung Health Check campaign can help to address these misconceptions about early diagnosis, and encourage people who have been invited for a NHS lung health check, to prioritise their health and book an appointment.”
Former smoker Pat Caro, who lives in Southwark, was diagnosed with lung cancer last year, and is now urging fellow residents who have received an invitation for a NHS lung health check to book an appointment.
Pat, now 71, has been a dialysis patient since 2011, but last year she was advised by her renal consultant to have a lung scan. She said: “I was surprised when I was asked to have a lung scan – particularly as I felt fine and had no symptoms which would indicate any lung problems.”
Pat’s scan revealed a small tumour on her left lung. She continued: “The doctors confirmed that my history of smoking had most likely contributed to my diagnosis – despite having quit over 10 years ago.”
She added: “I was referred immediately to the Guy’s Cancer Centre and within weeks underwent an operation to remove the tumour.”
Pat is now cancer free and said: “I’m really lucky that I was diagnosed before I got any symptoms. It just made the treatment easier to manage and I didn’t have to spend days or even weeks in hospital.”
Pat is now urging her fellow Southwark residents who have been invited for a NHS lung health check, to accept their invitation.
Patricia said: “One simple scan could save your life and give you more time to spend with your loved ones. Just by showing up, you can put yours and your family’s mind at ease. Don’t hesitate. Go to your appointment – you won’t regret it.”