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World Lung Day 2022: Lung health for all and the importance of early screening and detection

World Lung Day was established by The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) and will be recognised this Sunday -  25 September. 

This year World Lung Day is promoting the importance of lung health for all. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted on a global scale the stark inequalities in respiratory healthcare.

FIRS is seeking governments, medical professionals and researchers to focus on three key issues to help reduce respiratory health inequalities:

  • The global burden of the major respiratory diseases and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • The importance of early screening and detection 
  • Reducing inequalities in screening, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of lung conditions

The importance of early detection and screening 

One of the key issues to raise awareness of this World Lung Day 2022 is the importance of early detection and screening for lung conditions.  

Recently the NHS Lung Health Check Programme in Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, reached a major milestone. The programme invites past and current smokers aged between 55 and 74 years of age to attend for a free health check to identity potential lung diseases at an earlier stage so effective treatment can be provided.  

The NHS Trust in Hull confirmed there have been more than 10,000 assessments and 7,000 scans since the programme was introduced in January 2020. Furthermore in a small percentage of cases, lung cancer was detected, but at an early stage, which is likely to result in better outcomes for the patient. 

Whilst it's so important to acknowledge the progress programmes such as the NHS Lung Health Check has made – it is equally important to continue to promote lung health for all on World Lung Day 2022.

I recently spoke to Bethany Marjoram, a lung cancer nurse from Bradford, West Yorkshire, about the importance of screening and early detection of lung cancer. As there are often no signs or symptoms from lung cancer when it is at an early stage, seven out of 10 lung cancer patients are still being diagnosed at an advanced stage where it is too late to offer curative treatment.

Early detection enables more treatment options to become available to these patients. In turn this can lead to better outcomes, making a difference to not only the individual with cancer, but their loved ones as well. 

To put this into perspective, 88 per cent of people diagnosed with an early stage lung cancer such as stage 1; will survive for at least one year from diagnosis. This is compared to only 19 per cent of those diagnosed with the most advanced stage of this disease.

As Bethany comments, the detection of lung cancer at an earlier stage can lead to an improved prognosis and accessing treatment. 

Support following diagnosis

Sadly, there will still be those patients who will receive a life-limiting diagnosis, but research suggests earlier access to palliative care, such as seeking assistance from local hospices, can improve quality of life for both the patient and their loved ones.  Hospices can also provide advice on managing symptoms as well as offering support on emotional and social matters.  

Securing damages and access to care

In my role as an asbestos-related disease lawyer, I've seen first-hand the importance and difference it can make when a diagnosis of a lung cancer, such as mesothelioma, is provided at an earlier stage. It's widely accepted there needs to be heavy exposure to asbestos dust and fibre in order to establish such exposure caused lung cancer.  Accordingly it assists if specialist solicitors have sufficient time to complete their thorough investigations and obtain detailed witness evidence from the client in support of the legal claim. 

Unfortunately if specialist solicitors are instructed in the later stages, then the opportunity to obtain evidence in support of a claim can prove more difficult.  However, as always it is extremely important to seek specialist legal advice at any stage. 

Furthermore if there has been an early diagnosis, as part of the legal claim, specialist solicitors can look to secure damages for rehabilitation, care packages, treatment, which will support our clients and their loved ones at a difficult time in their lives. We can also assisting with signposting to support services when needed in order to make a positive difference in their lives.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by lung cancer, whether as a result of their work or as a result of a diagnosis delay, at our website.