Published on: 28 November 2023

When Rotherham resident John Garner received a cancer diagnosis from his Targeted Lung Health Check, he was completely shocked – he hadn’t had any symptoms at all.

John played football semi-professionally when he was younger and has always enjoyed being active, so when he was told he had lung cancer, he was stunned:

 “I didn’t have any symptoms whatsoever and was fit as anything — so I want everybody to have their lung health check done.”

After receiving a letter earlier this year inviting him to take a free NHS Targeted Lung Health Check, John answered a telephone call to confirm he met the eligibility criteria, which is being aged between 55 and 74, having ever smoked, and being registered with a GP. A respiratory nurse then called John to conduct the lung health check, asking questions about his lifestyle, medical history, and his family’s medical history.

When John’s lung health check deemed him to be at a higher risk of lung cancer, he was referred for a low dose CT scan on a mobile scanning unit that was located in Parkgate Retail World’s car park in Rotherham.

Just two months after John was told he had lung cancer, he was having surgery to remove a third of one lung – and the cancer – and has since been given the all-clear.

John recalled the day he found out he had cancer:

“We were just watching telly and having a cup of tea when I got the phone call. It’s like a big dark cloud coming out of nowhere when they tell you you’ve got cancer.

My consultant went through everything, and she put my mind at ease, especially when she said the operation would be done through keyhole surgery. They were fantastic, absolutely fantastic, all the nurses, everybody.”

John’s wife Mary and son Niall say they will be “forever grateful” to the Targeted Lung Health Check Programme. Niall said: “The run-up to dad’s operation was difficult. My mum and I had tried not to show dad we were worried but whenever he left the room, we’d break down in tears. He’s not just my dad, he’s my hero. Please have your lung health check if you’re invited and go to the scans and appointments if you’re told you need them. It could save your life.”

John said: “I keep doing the exercises they gave me, and I also attend BreathingSpace (Rotherham’s community service at Badsley Moor Lane for people with respiratory conditions). 

I still get out of breath and can’t walk as far as I used to, but I am slowly building it back up.

If you get a letter inviting you to have a lung health check, please don’t hesitate. You might be absolutely fine but if they find something like they did with me, and it’s found early enough, they give you more options to treat it. The lung health check saved my life.”