A project deploying mobile screening facilities to shopping centres in Manchester found that 80% of lung cancers picked up were at the potentially curable stage 1 or 2, compared with 20% picked up through usual NHS methods.
Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with close to 50,000 diagnoses per year.
Due to absent or unclear symptoms, including a prolonged cough, many cases go undiagnosed until at a late stage.
The project, funded by Macmillan Cancer Support, involved more than 2,500 people having on-the-spot low-dose CT scans.
All the participants were current or past smokers and all were aged 55 to 74.
Overall, 42 cancers were discovered, with most of those at an early stage where curative treatment could be offered.
Just 10% of the cancers were stage 4 - which is usually incurable and can lead to rapid death.
"We have hard evidence now that CT scanning high-risk patients helps us to identify cancers early enough to cure them, and we have also picked up many patients with other lung conditions at a much earlier stage than would otherwise have been possible." says Dr Phil Barber, consultant respiratory physician to the University Hospital of South Manchester and clinical lead for the project.
"It is often assumed that people living in more deprived areas, like those chosen for this pilot, do not usually take up screening opportunities, but we have demonstrated that this is not the case, and that many people are keen to attend."
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said "Our Manchester pilot has achieved extraordinary success in diagnosing lung cancer at an early curative stage. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, claiming the lives of more than 35,000 people a year.Yet thousands of lives could be saved if early diagnosis screening of lung disease could be taken forward."
"The Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership in Manchester has found an approach that encourages people at high risk of lung disease to attend and undergo a highly effective diagnostic low-dose CT scan in a mobile unit in their own neighbourhood. People at high risk, often living in our most deprived areas, should be given this proven opportunity to improve their chances of surviving lung cancer and other lung diseases."
Source: Macmillan Cancer Support
(27 Mar 2017)