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Introduction of NHS mobile cancer testing set to improve early diagnosis and save lives

The death of Johnny Halliday just after lung cancer awareness month reminds us of the needs reminds us of the steps begin taken to fight this killer disease.

Following November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, several mobile testing centres in supermarket car parks are being introduced by the NHS to significantly improve early diagnoses.Mobile MRI unit


NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens announced the programme’s extension, which will fund portable CT-scanners to screen smokers and ex-smokers in three other parts of the country, potentially saving thousands of lives. Other regions include the North East and Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and London.


The Lung Health Check, a pilot scheme in Manchester, saw early diagnosis quadruple as a result of offering breath testing and on-the-spot scans around shopping areas in some of the city’s most deprived boroughs.


As lung cancer is the biggest cause of premature death in Manchester, the Lung Health Check programme offered health checks to patients aged between 55-74 with a history of smoking. 2,500 people received scans, with one cancer case diagnosed for every 33 patients screened. Vitally, 80% of these cases were diagnosed at an early, more treatable, stage.


Analysis from Cancer Research UK estimates that 52,000 patients a year are reducing their chances of beating cancer as the disease is not caught quickly enough.


A spokesman from Patient Claim Line, a medical negligence specialist, explained that the issue of misdiagnosis or late diagnosis is one of the most pressing problems relating to patient safety, especially amongst cancer patients. Roughly three-quarters of those diagnosed have the condition in its advanced stages where it is much harder to treat.


Lung cancer in particular can be easy to misdiagnose as there are few symptoms in its early stages which mean that it can be missed by specialists. This is the opportunity to correctly diagnose the condition so it can be treated effectively which will save lives.


There are also legal implications of misdiagnosis. The NHS has paid a total of £44.6million in damages to almost 700 patients in the last eight years who brought successful compensation claims after hospitals missed giving them a vital cancer diagnosis.


On average seven people a month are given the all clear by hospital staff only to later find out that they have cancer. The average payout to these patients was around £65,000 but in some cases the damages have reached close to £1million, following legal claims alleging medics were negligent when they failed to spot the critical illness.


This follows a report from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) indicating that the NHS lags behind Europe on cancer diagnosis and treatment because of underinvestment in the sector. Additionally over 100,000 patients each year wait longer than the two-week maximum target for receiving cancer tests after an urgent GP referral – a target that has been missed three years running.


In one-third of cases the patient suffered harm because of the delay, which most commonly was between one and three months. The report found that doctors failed to spot key signs of cancer, tissue samples were mixed up, some patients were wrongly given an all-clear and vital diagnostic tests were delayed because of staff and equipment shortages.



The NHS have announced that home testing kits for bowel cancer are set to be introduced in 2018, potentially saving lives and funding. Patients who have been identified as at risk of prostate cancer by an earlier blood test can take the home test to provide more evidence as to whether they can be discharged or whether they require a biopsy. This scheme will significantly improve diagnosis and could identify 1,500 more cancer cases each year.


University College London Hospital (UCLH) is investigating whether this can rule out bowel cancer in patients referred with abdominal symptoms that suggest cancer. This potentially prevents 100,000 patients a year needing an invasive colonoscopy, which would save millions as the home test costs around £5 compared to £372 for each colonoscopy.

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