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New fast track scans to diagnose lung cancer

13th October 2020

The Southern Trust has launched a new trial to help speed up lung cancer diagnosis.

Lung Cancer is one of the most common and serious cancers. As there are usually no obvious early signs or symptoms, most patients are diagnosed at a more advanced stage and it is sadly the most common cause of cancer death worldwide.

Usually patients with suspected symptoms are referred by their GP for a chest x-ray before seeing a Respiratory Consultant who would arrange a scan.

Now GPs can directly refer patients to the Radiology Department Daisy Hill or South Tyrone hospital where the new CT scanners can provide a specialised ‘low dose CT scan,’ which is proven to have a high sensitivity to lung cancer, even in the early stages.

 The Trust is the first in Northern Ireland to introduce this new fast track system which will be trialled for six months.

Dr Liam Polley, Consultant Respiratory Physician for the Southern Trust explains: “Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. As most patients are diagnosed at a later stage, sadly, compared to other cancers, survival outcomes are much lower. We are continually trying to improve diagnosis and treatments and are delighted to team up with GP colleagues to explore how we can offer better outcomes for lung cancer patients. As earlier diagnosis is so vital, we hope that by fast tracking our process, we can begin treatment more promptly for those patients with confirmed lung cancer and of course quickly reassure those with a negative result.”

Dr Rose McCullagh, Associate Medical Director for Primary Care adds: “It is so important, particularly if you are aged over 40, to be aware of any new unexplained symptoms and seek expert advice if you notice anything that is not normal for you. Please don’t hesitate to telephone your GP practice and from there an appropriate plan for your care can be arranged.’’

GPs can now refer patients aged over 40yrs of age who have two or more of the following unexplained symptoms which may indicate earlier signs of lung cancer including:

  • Unexplained persistent cough for more than 3 weeks
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

For smokers over 40 this may also include one or more of the following:

  • Weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Persistent or recurrent chest infection

Detailed information on how to refer patients has been sent directly to GPs.

This project is supported by Integrated Care Partnerships to promote a co-ordinated approach across all health and social care sectors.