77-year-old Bridget Barker from Hackney, east London, is one of the first people to benefit from a new study into early lung cancer screening.
Her lung cancer was discovered during a lung health check at Mile End Hospital following an invitation from her GP, which was sent to her as part of the SUMMIT Study. This was followed by successful robotic surgery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital to treat the cancer.
“I was feeling absolutely fine and would never have gone to see my GP about anything to do with my lungs. But when I got the invitation for the lung health check I called up for an appointment straight away,” says Bridget Barker. “I thought it best just check everything was ok as I started smoking when I was 21, though I gave it up completely 15 years ago. I like to be spontaneous. If I’d put the letter aside I would have forgotten all about it. Who knows how things would have turned out if it wasn’t for the lung health check.”
“The whole experience has been like an express train and the consultants have been absolutely brilliant. My family and I are still in shock at the speed. The radiographer saw something on the first scan during the appointment, so a few days later I was called back for a PET scan. On the Friday it was confirmed that there was cancer and the hospital asked if I could come in for surgery at 7am on the following Monday!”
The malignant nodules on Bridget’s lung were removed using a state of the art Da Vinci robot at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, funded by Barts Charity. Since surgery Bridget has not needed chemotherapy or radiotherapy but will continue to have regular check-ups.
Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer in the UK. In the early stages of lung cancer people often have no symptoms and thus no reason to go to their GP. Treatment at stage 1 or 2 of the disease is much more likely to be successful, which is why early screening can be so important.
Mile End Hospital, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, is one of four locations where the lung health checks are being carried out as part of the SUMMIT Study, which is a collaboration of UCLH, UCL, the National Institute for Health Research UCLH Biomedical Research Centre and GRAIL, Inc.
“We’re delighted that we were able to diagnose Bridget and offer her treatment quickly through this lung screening programme and wish her well for a continued recovery. Our surgical procedures using robotic equipment mean that patients like Bridget recover more quickly from their surgery, usually spending only a few days in hospital.” said Dr Will Ricketts, Consultant Chest Physician at Barts Health NHS Trust.
Says Sam Janes professor of respiratory medicine at UCL/UCLH and Chief Investigator of the SUMMIT Study: “We have now seen over 5,000 people for lung health checks and have been able to identify conditions, including cancer, which needed action. But we are looking for many more people to take up the offer when they receive the letter from their GP. Responding to the letter is voluntary but as Bridget’s story shows, there are important, potentially life-saving reasons to have the lung health check.”
The SUMMIT Study, run by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and UCL (University College London), is recruiting 25,000 people aged 50-77 in north and east London, who are at higher risk of lung cancer, to take part in early screening. If a patient is eligible, they will also be invited to have a low dose CT scan and provide a blood sample which will support the development of a blood test by GRAIL (a U.S. healthcare company focused on the early detection of cancer) to detect multiple types of deadly cancers, including in the lung.