Pilot launched for lung cancer screens

A screening method tailored to pick up the country’s most lethal cancer early is being piloted in the UK.

Currently, an adequate screening test for lung cancer is missing, and the UK's biggest cancer killer causes 33,000 deaths a year.

Only 7 per cent of people diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK survive beyond five years. But early detection can boost survival in 80 per cent of cases. 

Key to the method being piloted is that it looks for squamous cell cancers in the central airways. Ongoing trials of CT scans for lung cancer screening in the US have so far focused on detecting cancers in the periphery of the lungs.

For the latest seven-year trial, smokers with mild to moderate COPD are being recruited to undergo screening, which primarily involves analysis of phlegm samples twice a year. 

If abnormal cells are found, patients will then undergo fluorescence bronchoscopy to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in the main airways using which uses blue and white light.

A low-dose CT scan known as spira CT will also be used to make sure any signs of cancer in the outer lungs are also picked up.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

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