‘Lung MOTs’: NHS trucks offering chest scans in deprived areas help diagnose lung cancer earlier
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People in deprived areas are now more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage due to the success of trucks offering chest scans in supermarket car parks. The NHS said for the first time ever, data shows there’s been an increase of stage one detections in 2022 compared to the previous year.
The chest scans, also called ‘lung MOTs’, were launched in 2018 in areas of the country with the lowest lung cancer survival rates. According to the NHS, more than a third of people diagnosed with lung cancer from the most deprived 20% of England had the disease detected at stage one or two in 2022 (34.5%) - up from 30% in 2019.
One person who has benefited from the initiative is Sandra, a former smoker. The 72-year-old was called for a lung check. Following a scan in a mobile unit in a supermarket car park, a nodule was found in her lung and she received an early diagnosis of lung cancer.
She said: “It was after this scan that I went to see the doctor and she explained that I had very early-stage lung cancer and would need surgery to remove it. They said it would be keyhole surgery, which was a big relief.
“They also said that from what they could see, it hadn’t spread. I was still obviously very frightened. It was scary and, even though it had been caught early, all kinds of things go through your head. But I felt so fortunate that it had been caught so early.
“I went into the hospital in March 2022, had the surgery the next day and was back home on Mother’s Day. Less than a week after my operation, I went out for a meal with my daughter to the pub. Within two weeks, I was doing my own cooking and just getting back to normal. That’s how quick my recovery was.”
She is one of more than 300,000 people who have already taken up the offer and visited the trucks, which have diagnosed more than 1,750 people with lung cancer. Over three quarters (76%) were caught at stage one or two, compared with just a third caught at early stages in 2018. The link between deprivation and worse cancer outcomes is based on a number of factors.
Now at 43 sites across the country, the mobile trucks scan those most at risk from lung cancer, including current and ex-smokers, inviting them for an on-the-spot chest scan for those at the highest risk. Advice to help people stop smoking is also provided to those who attend.
Cancer survival is at an all-time high in England and the latest data shows the NHS is diagnosing more patients with cancer at an earlier stage than ever before, when it is easier to treat – over 100,000 (104,012) patients were diagnosed with cancer at stages one or two when it is easier to treat – the highest proportion on record.
National Director for Cancer, Dame Cally Palmer, said: “These findings are incredibly important – they show the power behind targeted health programmes with the NHS continuing its drive to detect cancers earlier by going into the heart of communities that may be less likely to come forward.
“While early diagnosis rates for cancer have traditionally been lower for deprived groups, thanks to the rollout of lung trucks, the NHS has turned a huge corner – and is now finding and treating those who would otherwise have been undetected.
“The NHS will not stop in its efforts to go out and find more cancers at an earlier point, when easier to treat, so if you have had an invite, please take it up, and as ever, if you are showing any signs of cancer, please come forward to your GP – getting checked could save your life.”