LUNG cancer remains one of the commonest causes of cancer-related deaths in the UK.

Statistics reveal more than 45,000 new diagnoses per year, with around 35,000 deaths.

Survival at 10 years is a distressingly low five per cent.

Despite comparable healthcare systems, our survival figures lag behind those of other European countries by a large margin.

Any chance of a successful outcome relies on timely diagnosis. Cancers detected early or even before the person develops any symptoms, so called “opportunistically”, are much more amenable to treatments aimed at a cure.

Screening programmes for lung cancer in the US, Canada and some European countries, using CT scanning of high-risk individuals, have shown promising results. Closer to home, the Manchester Lung Health Check Pilot scheme set up mobile units in supermarkets in three areas of increased poverty.

Participants with a smoking history undertook a questionnaire, were given advice on stopping smoking, and if appropriate, a CT scan was performed in the same sitting. Results showed that of just over 2,500 persons screened, 46 lung cancers were detected. Importantly 80 per cent of these were at an early stage.

Currently, if you have a chest complaint, you will usually visit your GP for advice and treatment. If he or she feels there is a suspicion of lung cancer, a chest X-ray will be organised, with facilities for this to be done the same day. An abnormal chest X-ray will either result in a referral to a lung cancer clinic if this is strongly suspected or an urgent CT scan if the person is at less risk or the diagnosis is uncertain.

One of the main issues is that many people do not present to their GP early enough.

Certainly some smokers will put down fairly serious symptoms including a cough that does not clear and even coughing up blood, to their habit rather than seeking help.

The Government’s vision is that setting up mobile units will be less intimidating than having to see a doctor and that as a “one stop shop” health education and a CT scan can be done all together.

On the opposite side of the coin, CT scanning can and will pick up abnormalities or changes that do not turn out to be lung cancer, requiring invasive tests and potentially causing much anxiety during this time.

I would certainly encourage anyone at high risk of lung cancer to participate in this programme.

However, if you have any symptoms suggestive of lung cancer, this is not for you and you should seek the advice of your GP urgently.

People who do not smoke can also get lung cancer, yet screening has not addressed this group yet.

Any non-smoker with

concerning symptoms must not ignore these.

Finally a normal CT should not be seen as a ticket to continue smoking, and the best advice any doctor can offer is to kick the habit.