All over-55s who’ve ever smoked should be given lung scan

Everyone over the age of 55 who has ever smoked a cigarette should be invited for a lung scan, the UK National Screening Committee (UKNSC) has proposed. The body has called for checks to be carried out en masse in an effort to reverse the trend of lung cancer being the most common form of the disease to cause deaths in Britain.

It suggests that all those aged between 55 and 74 who smoke, or have ever smoked, should be tested to assess their risk. This would be done using a low dose CT scan and should be accompanied by advice on how to quit smoking for those who still practice the habit.

Some 35,000 people die from lung cancer every year, as well 48,000 being diagnosed. The primary cause of the condition is smoking and outcomes after diagnosis are generally poor, as it’s usually not caught early enough. Fewer than five in 100 patients are still alive five years after being diagnosed.

Cancer Research UK has backed the UKNSC’s recommendation, but it’s government ministers who will have the final say on its implementation. While they have a strong track record of accepting the screening body’s proposals, it can sometimes take years for them to be enacted.

Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy information and communications at Cancer Research UK, told the Telegraph: “We welcome this recommendation and urge governments in all four UK nations to roll out a targeted lung cancer screening programme as swiftly as possible.

“Lung cancer causes more deaths in the UK than any other cancer type, and screening could save lives by diagnosing people at an earlier stage – when treatment is more likely to be successful.”

A pilot scheme has already been set up and is offering targeted lung cancer checks in 23 parts of England. These mobile CT scanners that are set up in shopping centre car parks have quadrupled the number of stage one and two lung cancer cases identified.

It’s 15 years since the UKNSC formally considered rolling out lung cancer screening and at that time its recommendation was against the measure. Now, the body’s standpoint has changed and it wants to carry out modelling to add more details to its advice.