"Lung Cancer - it doesn't have to he the UK's most common cause of cancer death" says Sir George
Two major players in the treatment of, and provision of support to, people living with lung cancer, Macmillan Cancer Relief and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, have joined forces for a ground-breaking campaign to celebrate Global Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
The Parliamentary push, backed by Sir George and MP's from all parties, will support the campaign's main aim to raise public awareness of a simple but critical fact about lung cancer - early diagnosis saves lives - with a call to action. This echoes the central recommendation of an authoritative joint report by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) and the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (SCS), The Critical Under-Provision of Thoracic Surgery in the UK (January 2002).
If early diagnosis is really to save lives, it must go hand-in-hand with earlier intervention. And that requires more thoracic surgeons, to perform more effective, curative surgery.
The scale of the challenge is significant and growing - lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, with 40,000 people diagnosed,each year and 80% of people dying within a year of diagnosis.
Our five year survival rates are amongst the lowest in Europe. Yet it need not be this way. University of Iowa research has shown that people are 40 times more likely to survive lung cancer if it is detected early, i.e. when symptoms first appear.
We are already making progress towards matching and overtaking European levels of health spending as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review. NHS spending is set to rise to 7.7% of GDP in 2004 and to 9.4% by 2008, above the current European average of 8.7%.
According to the BTSISCS report, resection (i.e. the complete surgical excision by removal of part or all of one lung) is the most likely treatment to cure lung cancer.
Also according to the BTSISCS report, some patients needing complex surgery are being denied it, due in part to the lack of specialist thoracic surgeons and available operating time.
This is borne out by the UK's low resection rates - at 4,000 (under 10%), they are less than half that performed in Holland and the US - with fewer than 40 pure thoracic surgeons across the country.
50 extra surgeons are required to bring the UK up to European average standards, with a target of 80 surgeons to maintain stability, and allowing for a training time bag for dedicated thoracic surgeons of about six years.
“This is a really important issue. Lung cancer is now the biggest cancer killer for both men and women. But this need not be the case if only people were aware of the symptoms and made that appointment with the doctor. There is no stronger argument for getting your symptoms checked out than the simple fact that early diagnosis could save your life”.