A pilot programme scanned more than 2,500 smokers and ex-smokers in 3 deprived areas of Manchester which have seen high rates of lung cancer. Screening discovered 46 cases of cancer. Of these, 80% were in the early stages.
According to the NHS, the mobile scanning trucks have detected 1 cancer for every 33 patients scanned over the course of a year. It says the programme was responsible for quadrupling the early diagnosis rate for lung cancer in the city.
The scheme is now to be rolled out across the whole of north Manchester – an area with the highest number of lung cancer deaths in England among the under-75s – and other selected areas of England.
Commenting on the announcement, Dany Bell, specialist advisor for treatment and recovery at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: "The earlier that someone is diagnosed with cancer, the better their chance of successful treatment is. So, it's great news that this pilot scheme is now going to be rolled out across other parts of England.
"Lung cancer is a notoriously difficult type to diagnose at an early stage, and initiatives such as this make it easier for high-risk people to get their health checked."
"Innovative, pragmatic approaches such as this that help ensure cancer is caught at an early stage must increasingly become part of the NHS’s thinking as the numbers of people diagnosed with the disease continues to grow."
Bowel cancer testing
Speaking at the Economist War on Cancer event in London, Mr Stevens confirmed plans for a more sensitive test for bowel cancer which he said could see as many as 1,500 more cases caught earlier every year.
The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is an easy to use home testing kit which can predict early signs of bowel cancer.
The testing kit has a stick attached to the lid. This is used to take one small poo sample which is then placed in a tube. The sample is then sent in the post for screening, which normally takes 2 weeks.
FIT became the standard bowel cancer test in Scotland yesterday. England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently use a test called a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). The FOBT test is more complicated because it can take between 10 and 14 days to collect poo samples.
The FIT test has also proven to be more accurate than FOBT, and the switch should mean that more cancers are detected.
'Crucial step forward'
Commenting on the announcement, Claire Donaghy, head of Scotland at Bowel Cancer UK, said in a statement: "This is an important and crucial step forward in saving more lives from bowel cancer. We have long called for the introduction of FIT and have played an active role over many years campaigning for change."
NHS England says it is committed to expanded cancer screening to more than 4 million people in 2018.
Mr Stevens said: "NHS cancer care is the best it's ever been, with cancer survival increasing every year.
"Over the next 18 months the NHS will be rolling out new mobile and home screening kits to detect cancers earlier, when they can be treated best."
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