Published on: 2 November 2023

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The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Targeted Lung Health Check Programme launched in 2021 for people aged between 55 and 74 who have ever smoked, and it has been instrumental in identifying many lung cancers at much earlier – and therefore more treatable – stages.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and the Targeted Lung Health Check team is reaffirming the critical importance of attending all your follow-up scans and appointments when you’re invited, urging patients to remember that early detection is essential for more successful treatment.

Clinical Director of the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Targeted Lung Health Check Programme Dr Jason Page said: “By attending your follow-up scans, you are taking an active role in prioritising and safeguarding your health.

“They enable us to monitor any changes that may take place over time, which can be indicative of potential issues and so they are a crucial part of this invaluable Programme. 

“It’s unfortunate that some patients may underestimate the importance of these subsequent scans, which can lead to missed opportunities for timely diagnosis and treatment. Lung cancer develops very quickly, so a normal scan two years ago doesn’t rule out new findings – we simply cannot overstate how vital follow-up scans are.

“Early intervention through this Programme can and has saved lives. Please – prioritise your health and continue your Targeted Lung Health Check journey by attending your follow-up scans.”

Lung cancer often has no symptoms until it has progressed to a later stage when treatment options are limited.

Sandra Sloan is a patient from Doncaster who can attest to this. She was invited for her lung health check and scans back in 2021 and credits the Programme with saving her life, saying: “I hadn’t smoked for 16 years at that time. I felt absolutely fine, no cough, no shortness of breath, nothing; just completely fine.

“I was frightened when I went for my scan, but the team was wonderful and made me feel at ease. I cannot recommend enough to go for your scans when you’re invited. Don’t let any fear hold you back from prioritising your health.

“My cancer was found at an early enough stage that I could have surgery to remove it, and two years later I’ve been given the all-clear. Please, please just go for your scans – it truly saved my life.”

The team is planning for continued expansion with a launch in Sheffield in autumn 2024, and overall, the Targeted Lung Health Check Programmes have been so successful that it will become a national screening programme by 2030.

The results from South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw contributed to this, as Dr Page explained: “From 100,000 invites, 203 lung cancers were found. Out of these, more than 70% were at an early stage, which is changing the conversational landscape that clinicians are having with their patients – telling people they have a chance of survival.”