Central Bedfordshire is the second area in Bedfordshire to be given the opportunity to improve lung cancer outcomes and follows the successful launch in Luton in 2021 of the Targeted Lung Health Check programme.
Existing and former smokers aged between 55 and 75 across Central Bedfordshire will be invited to have a free lung health check with a lung specialist at a convenient location close to where they live, initially over the phone. If deemed high-risk they will be offered a low-dose CT scan in a state-of-the-art mobile unit – currently located in Sainsbury’s car park in Dunstable.
Bedfordshire has poor outcomes for lung cancer and some of the highest rates of smoking with a significant percentage of the local population labelled as smokers or former smokers.
The programme is one of the second wave of sites to be rolled out as part the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr James Ramsay, Clinical Director for the Lung Health checks programme in Bedfordshire, said:
“The Lung Health Check programme will allow hundreds of people to receive potentially life-saving treatment for conditions much earlier than they would have before. This will bring huge benefits for the local population.
“Sadly, 20% of people in the UK still cannot name one symptom of lung cancer. This lack of awareness is one of the reasons why so many people with lung cancer are diagnosed at a later stage.
“We know if lung cancer is caught early, curative treatment is possible and people can go on to live life to the fullest. The difficulty has been finding it at those early stages.”
Only those meeting the criteria will be invited to take part in the programme. Everyone who is still a smoker will receive support from local Stop Smoking services.
The Lung Health checks team began inviting people in April 2022. Residents are invited via their GP practice. The programme will last for four years.
Theresa, a grandmother of 11 and great gran of 1 from Luton, who benefited from the lung health checks programme said:
When I was invited in January 2021, I quickly made an appointment, having been a smoker, I thought it was best to get checked out.”
“After I had my lungs checked, I noticed a small lump on my breast, so when the call came to say they had found a lesion, I wasn’t surprised, but I was very scared. I had a few more tests and they confirmed cancer.”
Theresa underwent an operation to remove the lump off of her breast and 3 out of 15 lymph nodes, follow by chemotherapy. She said:
“I was impressed how quickly I was in, they said I had stage 2 or 3 cancer. I was grateful they found it early. I’m just so grateful to the team, they were all lovely.
“I say if you get the letter, don’t be scared, the team are friendly, make that call, it could save your life!”
57-year-old Jacqueline from Luton, who suffers from COPD and fibromyalgia, has also received life changing cancer treatment through the programme.
She said: “I initially thought a phone conversation was a waste of time as I’d recently had a COPD check-up, but when my breathing got worse I decided to take up the offer of the appointment.
She continued: “Following a phone call, I was then referred for a CT scan at the mobile unit, and they found that I had a carcinoma on my upper right lung.”
Following treatment at Harefield Hospital a year ago to remove her upper right lung and lymph nodes, Jacqueline has made a full recovery from the surgery, and will be monitored for the next five years.
She said: “I am so lucky the Lung Health Check Programme team called me. Had they not I might not have bothered and I might not be sitting here now. If you are invited please do go along – it’s only a couple of hours of your life, but it could save it.”