Offering cancer tests in shopping centres could save thousands of lives, a leading charity says.
A study which placed mobile CT scanners in shopping centre care parks found they quadrupled the number of cases where lung cancer was detected early.
The project funded by Macmillan Cancer Support found that 80 per cent of lung cancers picked up through mobile screening were at the potentially curable stage 1 or 2.
The NHS normally detects just 20 per cent of cases at this stage.
More than 46,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UKevery year and it is the third most common cancer in the country.
Around three-quarters of cases are diagnosed at a late stage because symptoms – which include a prolonged cough – can be vague or do not occur.
Under the project in Manchester, GPs sent out letters to patients inviting smokers aged 55 to 74 to undergo lung checks at local shopping centres.
In total, more than 2,500 people went for tests, half of whom were then asked to have on on-the-spot CT scans.
Overall, 42 cancers were discovered – the vast majority at an early stage where curative treatment could be offered. Just 10 per cent of the cancers were stage four – which is usually incurable and can lead to rapid death.
Dr Phil Barber, consultant respiratory physician to the University Hospital of South Manchester and clinical lead for the project, said: “We have hard evidence now that CT scanning high-risk patients helps us to identify cancers early enough to cure them, and we have also picked up many patients with other lung conditions at a much earlier stage than would otherwise have been possible.”
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Our Manchester pilot has achieved extraordinary success in diagnosing lung cancer at an early curative stage.
“Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, claiming the lives of more than 35,000 people a year. Yet thousands of lives could be saved if early diagnosis screening of lung disease could be taken forward.
Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership (MCIP) programme director Janet Tonge said: “When we started work on the lung health checks we didn’t know if local people would want to use them or what they would find.
“So, when cancers were found in the first few days of scanning it was an emotional moment for the MCIP team knowing we had enabled this ground-breaking service to happen and lives to be saved.”