Paulsgrove man with lung cancer urges others to take up new screening programme in Portsmouth - as the city has among the highest mortality rates from the disease
and live on Freeview channel 276
Dad-of-two John Dean has to undergo ‘maintenance’ chemotherapy every three weeks to keep his lung cancer at bay after he mistook early symptoms for something else.
Following his diagnosis in November 2020 the former St John Ambulance trainer had to leave his job as he could no longer physically manage it.
John, 71, believes the outcome might have been quite different if he had been checked out sooner.
‘Since I was five I’ve had bronchiectasis after a doctor messed up when I had my tonsils removed,’ he told The News.
‘So when I was struggling to breathe and couldn’t walk uphill I just thought it had got worse.
‘In the end it got so bad that I went to get it checked out and they discovered I had lung cancer.
‘To start with I had to have quite aggressive chemotherapy, which stopped it progressing.’
Now Portsmouth will become one of 42 spots in the country to trial a new NHS lung health check system designed to diagnose lung cancers earlier.
Launching tomorrow (April 29), all past and current smokers aged between 55 and 74 in the city – totalling 23,000 people – will be invited for a check over the next two years with their GPs.
It will start with an initial phone assessment with a specially trained health care advisor.
If the person is deemed to be at high risk, they will be offered a health check with a nurse and a low dose CT scan of the lungs – carried out in the Rodney Road Centre.
It is thought this will identify more than 200 cases of lung cancer earlier than otherwise would have been.
People diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those whose cancer is caught late.
Portsmouth was selected for the trial, which could eventually be rolled out nationally, as it has one of the highest mortality rates for lung cancer.
In the area covered by the NHS Portsmouth CCG, 41 per cent of the 169 lung cancers detected in 2019 were at stage four (the latest stage) when found.
And in the same year it is estimated 17.5 per cent of Portsmouth adults were smokers – above the England average of 14.4 per cent.
Respiratory consultant at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust, Dr Ben Green, said: ‘Lung cancer can have few symptoms in the early stages. This means that people often don’t seek medical help until tumours become more advanced.
‘This programme is designed to check those most at risk of developing lung cancer in order to spot tumours early, enabling us to make the early diagnosis essential for getting curative treatment and improving survival from lung cancer.’
So far the programme has started in 23 other areas, with Southampton being the only other location on the south coast. It has already has seen more than three quarters (77 per cent) of cancers being caught at either stage one or two, giving patients a much better chance of beating the illness.
This compares to less than a third of cancers caught at either stage one or two in 2018.
John encouraged people to take up the offer. He said: ‘People should definitely get checked as soon as possible.
‘The earlier they catch it the better chance you have.’