COMMENT: Pioneering programme will catch cancer early

John Dean was struggling to breathe and couldn't walk uphill, but he assumed it was caused by an existing medical condition that had got worse.

It was only when his health continued to deteriorate that he went to get checked out - and had to face the shocking diagnosis that he had lung cancer.

This meant aggressive chemotherapy to stop it progressing and now he has to have further ‘maintenance’ chemotherapy every three weeks.

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He is in no doubt that discovering he had cancer sooner would have meant a very different outcome.

John's story is a powerful reminder that early detection is key. 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.

So he is absolutely right to urge people to take up the offer of a pioneering screening programme in Portsmouth.

The city will become one of 42 spots in the country to trial a new NHS lung health check system.

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Launching this week, all past and current smokers aged between 55 and 74 in the city will be invited for a check over the next two years with their GPs.

Portsmouth has been chosen to take part as it has one of the highest mortality rates for lung cancer in the country. It can't be coincidence that it is estimated 17.5 per cent of adults in the city are smokers – above the national average of 14.4 per cent.

The big advantage of this new programme is that lung cancer can have few symptoms in the early stages, so people don’t seek medical help until later.

Results of the programme in other areas have been encouraging, with more cancers caught at either stage one or two.

As John says: 'The earlier they catch it the better chance you have.’

So if you're in the target group, please go for your check when invited. It could save your life.

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