Cervical cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer are examples of cancers that are often detected early through screening. It saves hundreds of lives every year. Can screening work for lung cancer? The UK has tested. To learn from their projects, results and thoughts, we met in a digital conversation.
To improve early cancer diagnosis, outcomes and care for patients, Sweden is looking into the potential of introducing a national screening program for lung cancer. The UK has already carried out several projects and studies on lung cancer screening. At the end of September, we got to share their lessons from healthcare, universities and medical technology companies, as part of the work to see if a national screening program for lung cancer can fit into the Swedish context.
Dr. Philip Crosbie, Manchester University, shared words about a project in Manchester where they came to the realization, through a survey, that patients found it impractical to visit the clinic. Therefore, they introduced a screening bus to take the service directly to the patient.
Professor David Baldwin, of the East Midlands Cancer Alliance, told us how they found and contacted hard-to-reach patients – a combination of mobile screening and phone contact. He emphasized governing protocols as a prerequisite for uniform and standardized care. Baldwin also highlighted the importance of advisory committees and learning from each other.
Another UK project, in which the National Health Service, Oxford University and actors from the life science industry work together, is exploring how AI can diagnose lung cancer more accurately and quickly. And at the same time reduce the amount of invasive procedures. Algorithms become health care.
Professor Annie Mackie, Public Health England, described how the UK envisions a national screening programme for lung cancer. Now, with more evidence from published studies in the Netherlands and the US showing that targeted screening is effective against lung cancer, they are discussing a policy change – but there are still a lot of questions that need answers. How to choose which people to screen? Which ethical considerations must be taken? How will the screening be built up?
The Swedish researcher Mattias Johansson shared a research group’s work at the International Agency for Research on Cancer using biomarkers as a model to find the right patients. For example, if the screening only involves smokers, a large group of patients are overlooked. The future goal is to be able to predict risks using proteins, as a complement to risks detected via questionnaires.
The success factors from the UK can be summed up by the facts that care should be available to the needs of the citizen and the patient, that collaboration between clinics, research and other stakeholders is needed, and that digital tools can make healthcare more efficient. Lung cancer screening works, but must be properly implemented to deliver results, be effective and save lives.