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Life-saving clinical trial screens more than 8,000 people in Leeds for signs of lung cancer

A pioneering clinical trial has screened more than 8,000 people for lung cancer in the five years since it first launched.

The Leeds Lung Health Check, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals and the University of Leeds, offers people who are at a higher risk of lung cancer the opportunity to be scanned for early signs of the disease.

Since the trial began at the end of 2018, almost 350 lung cancers have been detected, with the majority found at an early stage when they can usually be treated successfully.

The Leeds Lung Health Check was also crucial in helping to inform plans for a national lung screening programme, which was announced by the UK Government in June 2023. There are plans for lung screening to be rolled out across the country by 2030, potentially saving thousands of lives through early diagnosis.

Rodney Thorpe, from Morley in Leeds, was diagnosed with lung cancer after attending the Leeds Lung Health Check back in 2018.

I first had an appointment five years ago, and the scan picked up a small growth on my lung. I went back for regular scans to monitor it and after three years, it was diagnosed as having developed into lung cancer.

“When I had the scan which diagnosed lung cancer, it was just after the lung screening trial had been extended for another two years thanks to additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research. I’m so grateful for that because without it, my cancer would not have been picked up as early as it was.”

Rodney, 77, had surgery to remove the cancer from his lung and was given the ‘all clear’ without needing any further treatment.

He continued: “All I had was a section of my lung removed, and I was only in hospital for two days. If the cancer hadn’t been found early, it could have been my whole lung, or the cancer could have spread even further.”

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Yorkshire with about 4,300 people diagnosed every year in the region.

Because lung cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms at an early stage, it is frequently diagnosed late when treatment options are more limited and survival rates are lower. Screening helps detect lung cancer before any signs or symptoms develop, when it is usually easier to treat.

The Leeds Lung Health Check has been able to provide evidence to the government that lung screening works, that there is a good response rate to invitations, and that it is cost effective for the NHS to run.

“Without the programme, we wouldn’t have been able to save lives by checking so many people for early signs of lung cancer and finding so many cancers that have been treatable. We’ve allowed the people that we meet here on the truck to live longer, healthier lives, free from cancer.”

Lead Research Nurse for the Leeds Lung Health Check

Rodney added: “I’d encourage people to attend screening if they’re invited. I’d have had no idea I had cancer if I hadn’t gone to mine because there were no signs at all.

“I can’t thank the Leeds Lung Health Check enough for what it did for me. I think it’s done wonders for people in Leeds, and it’s absolutely brilliant that people right across the country will now be able to have lung screening.”

The government plans to roll out a national lung screening programme to the areas that have the greatest need first, with the intention of ensuring everyone aged 55 to 74 with a history of smoking has access to lung screening by 2030.

The NHS will take over the running of the Leeds Lung Health Check when the trial ends in 2024.

This means that people in Yorkshire, where lung cancer is the biggest cause of cancer deaths, will continue to have access to life-saving screening.

With the announcement of a national lung screening programme, we will see thousands of lives saved across the country. This is a huge success story for Yorkshire. The role that the Leeds Lung Health Check played in paving the way for this development highlights the significant impact of the charity’s world-leading research and clinical trials that are taking place right here in our region.”

Chief Executive, Yorkshire Cancer Research