A screening service in north Cumbria is saving lives by spotting early signs of lung cancer.

The service was designed to identify people who were at a higher risk of developing lung cancer and offer a low dose CT scan to check for early signs of lung cancer, even if there was no symptoms.

So far the service has managed to detect early stage lung cancer in 4 patients.

One of those patients is Diane Stewart from Ennerdale Bridge. The 57 year old had been treated for a number of chest infections and had no idea she may have lung cancer. She said:Diane Stewart 2.jpg

“I thought I’d had COVID and my partner did say that he thought there was something wrong because I had suffered so many chest infections. It was my asthma nurse who told me about the screening service and would I be interested. I said I was and from the day I was screened everything fell into place and it was absolutely fantastic care from start to finish.”

Diane’s, scan showed that she had the early signs of lung cancer and she was immediately put on a treatment pathway.

She explained:

“Once the lung cancer was confirmed everything happened really quickly, more scans, consultations and finally the surgery. The care I had right through the process was incredible, fantastic.

“I had some pain after the surgery which was horrible but it only lasted a day and for me to be now told I don’t need any other treatment is wonderful. I’ve had family who have had to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy which is very difficult. Because this was found so early I don’t need any of that. I’m so grateful.

Diane Stewart 5.jpg“This has given me a new lease of life it really has. To anyone who is eligible for the screening service I say to them it is absolutely imperative that you put yourself forward. Even if you have no symptoms just get checked, it is imperative. I thought I had a chest infection or covid but thanks to the screening programme I have had the treatment and can get on with my life.”


Under the current criteria those eligible for the service must be aged 55 – 74, have a history of smoking and a diagnosis of COPD. Referrals are through your GP or other health professional.


The service is flagging far more than lung cancer though it is spotting the early signs of a range of cancers and heart conditions.

Lauren Hughes, is a lung cancer screening nurse and runs the project, she explains:

“The lung screening service was set up because in north Cumbria there are high levels of smoking compared to the rest of the country and also 50% of our patients present with advanced lung cancer that is much more difficult to treat. Only 30% of people were presenting with early stages which are more easily treatable.”

GPs can refer people who meet the criteria for a low dose CT scan of their lungs to check for early signs of cancer. It is entirely voluntary.Diane Stewart 6.jpg

Lauren explained that while the service is looking for lung cancer it has flagged other issues in patients.

“The CT scan looks at the upper part of the chest which covers about as far as the bottom of the rib cage. So as well as showing the lungs, the scans have also shown what we call ‘incidental abnormalities’ in other areas. These areas include the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands and thyroid glands and also has shown aortic aneurysms – where the blood vessel called the aorta has a weakness in an area of the wall of the blood vessel and therefore at risk of bursting, when caught early an operation can be done to prevent this occurring.

If there are incidental abnormalities in the body other than the lungs the person is referred to that specialist service for further investigation.”

Vicky Lamonby, lung cancer specialist nurse, explained the process from referral:

“The service covers all GP practices in north Cumbria. As long as the patient has not had a CT scan in the last year they can go onto the screening programme. Every referral is checked for suitability and once the chest CT scan is completed it is reviewed in a multidisciplinary meeting with a radiologist, respiratory consultant and specialist nurse for the early signs of lung cancer. We have managed to spot the early signs of lung cancer in four patients as well as some nodules in others that we will now specifically monitor. We have also spotted the early signs of breast cancer in another patient and have referred a further 24 patients to other specialist services to investigate incidental abnormalities in other areas of the body. If suspected for cancers they will go on to the two week waiting list for further investigations by those specialist teams.”

If you feel that you would like this service then please make an appointment with your GP and they can refer you into the services. Referrals can only come from a GP or other health professional.

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