Scientists to study feasibility of lung cancer screening

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme has commissioned a study to assess the feasibility of a lung cancer screening programme in the UK.

The NHS currently has established national screening programmes for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer.

Experts now want to know whether a programme using computerised tomography (CT) to scan high-risk people - such as ex-smokers - would be beneficial in the UK.

Lead researcher Professor John Field, director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme at the University of Liverpool, revealed that the number of lung cancer deaths has fallen in recent years thanks to a decline in smoking and greater public awareness.

"However, there is a large ex-smoking population who remain at high risk of developing lung cancer," he noted.

"Screening to detect the disease before patients develop any symptoms is a method that urgently requires evaluation as surgical resection at an early stage of the disease remains the only realistic option for a cure."

If the feasibility study suggests a lung cancer screening programme might be effective, a pilot study would then be conducted followed by a large-scale clinical trial.

"Only then would evidence be available to show whether a National Lung Cancer Screening Programme should be considered," said Professor Field.

He added: "We are delighted that the HTA has decided to invest in this first stage, which will help inform whether it is feasible to conduct a full trial."

Professor Tim Eisen, Cancer Research UK clinician and chair of the National Cancer Research Institute's lung cancer clinical studies group, said: "We know that most people - around 80 per cent - who get lung cancer only find out about it once the cancer has gone past the point where it can be cured.

"This trial aims to assess the proportion of people who are diagnosed at a time when it can still be successfully treated. We await the results of this important study with interest."

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