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Lung Cancer - No Longer a Death Sentence
Scotland’s number of deaths from lung cancer has made for grim reading for many generations. Thankfully, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Consider the words of Sir Alex Ferguson when talking about Scotland’s struggle with the disease -
“these days, lung cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Finding it early could save your life and give you extra time to spend with your family.”
How have lung cancer death rates in Scotland changed?
Around a quarter of all cancer deaths in Scotland are still down to lung cancer. The survival rate from the disease when compared to other cancers remains low, but this is due to cases of lung cancer tending to be detected at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, lung cancer often causes very few obvious symptoms in its early stages, so by the time patients notice a problem the cancer may already have progressed. A few years ago, only around 10% of Scottish lung cancer patients received surgery for the condition, mainly due to the advanced stage of their cancer making them unsuitable candidates. Now, the figure is around 15%.(1) This may not sound like a huge leap, but it is for the individuals who have been saved by that surgery.
The actual rates of lung cancer in Scotland continue to fall among men and rise among women. This is probably due to historical patterns in cigarette smoking. From the 1950s onwards more men began to give up the habit, while from WWII onwards more women began to smoke.(2)
What is the most crucial factor when it comes to improving survival rates?
Lung cancer incidence rates are higher in Scotland than in other parts of the UK, primarily due to Scotland’s greater prevalence of smoking (25% - 2010, Cancer Research UK) when compared to other areas, such as England (20% - 2010, Cancer Research UK). In 2010, the incidence rate for lung cancer in males in England was 56 cases per 100,000, while in Scotland it was 75 per 100,000. In females, the figures were 35 cases per 100,000 in Northern Ireland and 56 per 100,000 in Scotland.(3) In terms of actual survival rates over 1, 5, or 10 years, Scotland’s figures are broadly similar to that of the rest of the UK.(4)
Early detection is the key to improving survival rates from lung cancer. Cancer Research UK’s figures say that 58-73% of patients diagnosed at the cancer’s earliest stage (called 1A) will live for 5 years or more. Once you get to the most advanced stage, stage 4, there is only around a 2-13% chance of a patient surviving for five years or more.(5) These figures highlight the massive difference that early detection makes.
Is early testing available?
There is an early detection service, LungCheck, which is privately available to current and past heavy smokers (defined as someone smoking 20 cigarettes or more a day) over the age of 40.
How can I take the LungCheck blood test?
There are two initial steps -
● Read the information that will be made available to you on lung cancer and the benefits of early detection.
● Complete an online symptomatic score and lung cancer risk assessment based on your lifestyle, any symptoms, and your family history.
After these parts have been completed, the next steps would be spirometry (lung function test) and a unique blood test (EarlyCDT® - Lung). EarlyCDT®-Lung is believed to be seven times more likely to correctly detect lung cancer than CT scanning alone.(6) If the test results are abnormal you will be invited for consultation with Dr Kristopher Skwarski or Dr Adam Hill, Respiratory Consultants at The Edinburgh Clinic*.
Appointments are available between 9am and 4:30pm and can be arranged by calling:
0800 085 0228.
For further information, please contact The Edinburgh Clinic:
0131 447 2340
*Patient would be required to fund all on-going activity.