Middle-age lung screening to be offered to smokers and ex-smokers

'Smoking kills' should be printed on individual cigarettes, say MPs

Everyone who has ever smoked tobacco in England will be offered lung screenings when they hit middle age. 

The new plans – which are set to cost £270 million annually once rolled out – will use records for those aged 55 to 74 to identify current and former smokers.

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK as well as the country’s biggest cancer killer.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the scheme could provide ‘a lifeline to thousands of families across the country’. It is hoped up to 9,000 cases of lung cancer could be caught earlier or prevented as a result.

This follows a successful pilot of the scheme that was carried out in deprived areas. Trucks offering on-the-spot screenings were first deployed in supermarket carparks in areas with the lowest lung cancer survival rates. This included Hull, Blackpool and Doncaster.

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Specialist scans

The programme is backed by a recommendation from the UK National Screening Committee. It will use patients’ GP records to identify current or former smokers.

Patients will have their risk of cancer assessed based on their smoking history and other factors. Those considered high risk will be invited for specialist scans every two years.

It is estimated the rollout will mean 325,000 people will be newly eligible for a first scan each year. Around 992,000 scans are expected per year in total.

Sunak said: ‘As we approach the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, I want to ensure that it continues to thrive for the next 75 years and beyond.

‘And while we focus on cutting waiting lists in the short term, we must also look to tackle some of the long-term challenges facing the NHS. This includes lung cancer which costs 35,000 lives every year. Rolling out screening to high-risk 55 to 74 year olds will save lives by detecting up to 9,000 lung cancers a year at an early stage.

‘The NHS has treated record numbers of cancer patients over the last two years, with cancer being diagnosed at an earlier stage more often and survival rates improving across almost all types of cancer. Today’s announcement will help us go further and provide a lifeline to thousands of families across the country.’

‘Unacceptable’ promotions

This comes as a new government crackdown on vape marketing has kicked off reduce the targeting of children.

Sunak pledged to clamp down on the ‘unacceptable’ promotions of e-cigarettes as concerns build over increasing levels of vaping among young people.

A loophole that allows retailers to give free vape samples to children in England will close under the new plans.

Recent NHS figures for 2021 showed that 9% of 11 to 15 year old children used e-cigarettes. This figure is up from 6% in 2018.

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