Past and current smokers in Hull are being invited to a free NHS lung health check that is helping to improve earlier diagnosis of lung cancer and save more lives.
With one of the highest mortality rates for lung cancer in England, Hull is one of the first 23 places across the country to run the NHS Targeted Lung Health Check programme. Danny Whisby from West Hull was invited for a lung health check in early 2020 that potentially saved his life, and now he and his wife Christine are encouraging others to take up the invitation for the free check.
The initiative means more than 32,000 past and current smokers aged 55 to under 75 in Hull will be invited to a lung health check by their GP over the next 9 months. It is estimated that this will identify over 300 cases of cancer earlier than otherwise would have been.
The lung health check takes place in two stages. The first is an initial phone assessment with a specially trained health care professional. If the assessment finds the person to be at high risk, they are offered a low dose CT scan of the lungs for further investigation.
The CT scanner is housed in a mobile unit and, as eligible participants from Hull GP practices are invited in phases, the unit will be taken to different accessible areas, including supermarket and hospital car parks.
Lung cancer can often be caught too late as there are rarely symptoms at the earlier stages. The programme is designed to check those most at risk of developing lung cancer in order to spot signs earlier, at the stage when it’s much more treatable and ultimately saving more lives.
The Targeted Lung Health Check programme estimates it will diagnose around 6,000 cancers earlier than would otherwise have been within the 23 places it is currently established. This offers the opportunity for more and earlier interventions, including curative surgery, which will save people’s lives. Stop smoking advice will also be offered to support current smokers.
Dr Stuart Baugh, Programme Director for the Lung Health Check programme in Hull, said:
“Lung Health Checks can bring huge benefits in diagnosing a range of illness, not just lung cancer, but also emphysema, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at a much earlier and more treatable stage. The Hull lung health check service first launched in January 2020 and ran for five weeks before being paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. During that time, the service welcomed over 900 participants, helped to identify a number of cancers at an early stage and referred over 100 participants to local stop smoking services.”
Two of these participants are married couple, Christine and Danny Whisby from West Hull, who were invited for a lung health check in early 2020. Christine said:
“We received an invitation letter and are so thankful that we made the decision to go ahead with the lung health check. Unfortunately, the CT scan picked something up on Danny’s lung and within days we were at Castle Hill Hospital receiving a lung cancer diagnosis.
“He had no symptoms, other than a cough, which we naturally put down to smoking, and we were shocked to find out the growth was really large. We were so lucky, the lung health check caught it just in time and the amazing cancer team at Castle Hill Hospital were able to operate and remove the cancer without need for chemo or radiotherapy.
“Danny is now completely cancer free, but if it wasn’t for the lung health check, he simply wouldn’t be here today. We are so grateful to the amazing team who saved my husband’s life and would urge anyone who is invited to take up the offer.”
Dr Vince Rawcliffe, GP lead for the Lung Health Check programme in Hull, said:
“As a practising GP in Hull for many years, I have seen the impact of a lung cancer diagnosis on patients and their families.
“Lung cancer can be very difficult for doctors to diagnose at early stage. People often have no symptoms, or sometimes ignore symptoms, and then seek advice from their GP when the disease is advanced – making it more difficult and invasive to treat. GPs across Hull welcome this service as people offered a lung health check can, in the vast majority of cases, quickly and easily gain reassurance that their lungs are in good health.
“Eligible patients from Hull’s 33 GP practices will be invited in phases for lung health checks through a dedicated booking service at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.”
Jo Thompson, Lead Respiratory Nurse Specialist for the Lung Health Check programme in Hull said:
“Lung health checks can be booked at a convenient time, making it as easy as possible for people to attend. A team of specialist nurses are providing telephone assessment that last approximately 30 minutes and, if appropriate, participants will be invited to attend a CT scan on board the mobile unit. Safety measures, including the use of personalised protective equipment, have been put in place on board the mobile unit to reduce any risk of Covid-19 and the lung health check team are available to answer any questions someone may have either before, during or after their appointment.
“Scan results are analysed by a specialist clinical ‘hub’ within the hospital and participants receive their results in approximately two weeks. If further follow up is needed, participants are referred by the service to their GP or hospital.”
Dr Stuart Baugh continued: “I urge anyone, who receives a letter from their GP, to make an appointment. A lung health check can help to identify any problems early, even before you notice anything is wrong. If any problems with your lungs are found early, treatment can be simpler and more successful.”
For more information on the Targeted Lung Health Check programme please visit www.lunghealthchecks.org.uk