In a drive to save lives by detecting cancer early, people in Corby are being invited to take up the offer of a free NHS lung health check 'MOT'.
With one of the lowest survival rates in the country for lung cancer, Corby has been selected as one of 17 projects nationally to run a Targeted Lung Health Checks programme.
Lung cancer is frequently diagnosed at a later stage than other cancers, due to there often being no symptoms during the earlier stages.
The programme aims to improve earlier diagnosis of lung cancer, at a stage when it is much more treatable – ultimately saving more lives.
Dr George Tsaknis, Corby Lung Health Checks clinical director and Kettering General Hospital lung cancer lead, said: “Currently in Corby we are seeing patients presenting with lung cancer much later, with around 74 per cent of patients coming forward at stage III or stage IV.
"This means the cancer is much larger and may have spread to surrounding tissue or other organs and makes it much more difficult to treat.
"The earlier we can detect and treat lung cancer, the better chance a patient has of being treated successfully.
"The health check will help detect any problems a person is having with their lungs or breathing.
"This may be 'spots' on your lungs, which could be cancerous or pre-cancerous, or it may pick up respiratory conditions that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.
"Your lungs can’t heal themselves so detecting and managing these conditions as early as possible is better for patients and could avoid them becoming worse in the long-term.
"So if you receive a letter from your GP Practice about a lung health check, please make sure you come and see us.”
Anyone aged between 55 and 74 with a history of smoking, who is registered with a GP in Corby will receive a letter from their practice inviting them to make an appointment for a lung health check.
Those taking up the offer will have a telephone consultation with specially trained staff and anyone who is assessed at risk of developing lung cancer will have a telephone consultation with a nurse.
Questions asked will include personal and family history of cancer, smoking habits, occupational hazards such as heavy industry or working near asbestos and take into account other health factors such as obesity.
Those showing a number of risk factors will then be offered a lung scan, carried out at the mobile unit located in the car park at the Corby Diagnostic Centre in Cottingham Road.
One of the first to take part in the screening was John Friel from Corby who started smoking cigarettes while at school.
He quit his 10 cigar a day habit 20 years ago.
Living with COPD, the 74-year-old was glad to take up the offer of the five-minute screening.
He said: "I had a scan in September because of my COPD and have them quite regularly.
"I hope they don't find anything but it's reassuring to know. It only took five minutes.
"It's really great for Corby, especially for all the people who worked in the [steel] works."
Dr Az Ali, clinical executive director and cancer lead Northamptonshire CCG, said: “Your lungs work hard every day so it’s important to look after them.
"A Lung Health Check is like an MOT for your lungs, and could help spot any problems early – you may not have even noticed anything was wrong.
“The health check is simple and straight forward, so if you currently smoke or have ever smoked why not put your mind at ease by taking up the offer.
"And if a problem with your breathing or lungs is found, treating it early could be simpler and more successful. Please look out for a letter from your local GP practice.”
Around 9,000 people will be invited to take part in the Targeted Lung Health Check programme and, of those, the team is aiming to identify and treat the 135 cancers they statistically expect to find.
Dr George Tsaknis said: "Out of the 135 we could cure possibly all of them. If we didn't do the screening they would present as stage III and stage IV. The aim is to save those lives.
"Lives have been saved at other centres with this screening programme - we can state that as a fact.
"There are certain postcodes in Corby where the most late stages of cancer come from. They turn up at A&E with symptoms that they have had for months.
"Now we have a huge opportunity, with a directly funded service, to improve the lung health and lung cancer survival rate in the area."
Dr Joanne Watt, GP Chair of Northamptonshire CCG and local Corby GP added: “The lung health checks programme provides a real opportunity for local people in Corby to get themselves checked out quickly, easily and conveniently.
"We know that many people in our town have been smokers and that this increases the risk of breathing problems and lung disease as well as cancer.
"Our focus is on detecting a range of lung problems and on starting treatment as early as possible, and to ensure that our local population experiences the best health they can for as long as possible.”