How targeted screening can help the NHS save lives from lung cancer, the UK’s leading cause of cancer death

A targeted lung screening programme is the step-change in care that the NHS needs to catch lung cancer early. So, when the UK National Screening Committee gave the recommendation for it to go ahead, I was thrilled. It’s something that so many of us in the lung cancer research community have been working towards for years.

That said, with cash-strapped governments across the UK prioritising ‘value for money’ and efficiency, this might not seem like the most hospitable environment in which to recommend rolling out a new screening programme.

But the return on investment from lung screening could be massive. Lung cancer is the third most common cancer type in the UK, causing 34,800 deaths every year, more than any other cancer. There is huge potential here not just for saving and improving lives, but also for using money more cost-effectively. That’s because it’s much easier to treat lung cancer when it’s diagnosed early.

Lung cancer also disproportionately affects people experiencing deprivation. There are around 30,000 extra cancer cases each year in the UK due to deprivation, and lung cancer is the biggest contributor to these excess cases. It’s only right that we find ways to detect this disease as early as we can to save lives, and we must do so in a way that benefits everyone equally.

The truth is, when diagnosed at its earliest stage, 88% of people with lung cancer will survive their disease for one year or more, compared with 19% when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage.