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Lung cancer test to aid early detection

11/03/2012

A blood test which could identify lung cancer at an early stage is to be piloted across Scotland.

The scheme will test smokers who are at highest risk of developing lung cancer in order to improve early detection.

The lung test monitors the levels of antibodies in the blood, which could increase in number when cancer develops.

Patients with increased levels of the antibodies will be referred for a CT scan to determine whether they have cancer.

Announcing the pilot project, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland has one of the highest rates of lung cancer in the world, with nearly 5,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year, double the rate for the UK as a whole.

“If the disease is diagnosed early patients have a 60 per cent chance of survival, but if the cancer is well advanced the survival rate drops to just one per cent.

“Early detection is paramount and that is why I am delighted to announce today that the Scottish Government is backing a new groundbreaking diagnostic test to detect lung cancer earlier.

“If it works, it could lead to lung cancer being diagnosed, not just months, but in some cases, years earlier.

“We are the first country in the world to carry out a structured, population assessment of this test. It puts Scotland - as we have so often been in the past - in the vanguard of medical progress.

“It’s early days yet but this important innovation really does have the potential to save lives and I am very proud that Scotland is taking the lead.”

Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns added: “The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully, and currently 85 per cent of patients with lung cancer remain undiagnosed until the disease has reached an advanced stage.

“This pilot project is part of our Detect Cancer Early programme, which aims to increase the early detection of cancer by 25 per cent.

“By testing those at greatest risk of developing lung cancer, and diagnosing it at its earliest possible stage, we stand a better chance of being able to treat the cancer successfully.

“This means patients can be treated when their general health is better and when less aggressive treatment may be required than if the cancer had spread.”

Sixty GP practices across Scotland will test around 10,000 patients who are highlighted as being at higher risk of developing the disease over the next four years.

Smokers who are deemed to be at higher risk of lung cancer will be targeted by the pilot project.

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