At present, the only screenings offered are for breast, bowel and cervical cancer, despite lung cancer being the most common cause of cancer-related deaths. 35,000 people die every year in the UK due to lung cancer and approximately 75% of patients are diagnosed at stages 3 or 4 – the later stages, by which point treatment is less effective. When lung cancer is picked up at stages 1 or 2, 70% of people survive for a least one year.
The University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and University College London will carry out a study, known as the SUMMIT study, in an attempt to improve the number of early cancer diagnoses by bringing together healthcare organisations across the north and east of London. The study will begin in early 2019 and aims to detect lung cancer by developing a new blood test for the early detection of several types of cancer, not just lung cancer. The findings should enable a national lung cancer screening programme, beginning in London.
Sam Janes, Professor of Respiratory Medicine at UCLH has reported that “it is a huge screening study, the biggest in Europe, looking at how we can deliver it to a very large population in a city, really defining how the NHS will do this in the future. We hope we can demonstrate that it is achievable and affordable within the NHS.”
Ally Taft, a Partner at the Medical Accident Group, says, “Unfortunately, I see all too often cases where people have fallen victim to a delay in diagnosis of their cancer. If left too late, some cancers can be untreatable so the sooner the cancer is picked up, the better your chances of survival. I think it is a brilliant plan to screen for as many types of cancer as possible, so this new trial can only be a good thing and it would be great to see it rolled out across the rest of the country.”