Landmark news for lung cancer outcomes this week: a national targeted screening program was announced in the UK, giving an expected 9,000 people each year a fighting chance against lung cancer through early diagnosis. The program will build upon NHS England’s Targeted Lung Health Checks (TLHC), currently running across 43 sites.
Speaking about the TLHCs in the House of Commons, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay specifically mentioned how Saige Lung (formerly Veye Lung Nodules), the DeepHealth AI tool for lung screening, is supporting radiologists to report on the large volumes of chest scans.
This news confirms that the UK is leading the way in implementing both lung cancer screening and AI imaging solutions. DeepHealth is making a difference in the lives of patients and encouraging healthcare stakeholders to see the efficacy of this solution in large-scale screening.
The impact of lung cancer in the UK
Lung cancer leads to almost 35,000 deaths yearly in the UK, more than any other cancer. This is largely due to the difficulty in catching it on time. Possible symptoms develop when the disease has advanced to stages 3 and 4.
In time, lung cancer screening can shift detection to the early stage. Trials such as NELSON and UKLS have demonstrated significant reductions in lung cancer deaths for both men and women.
Early detection can also ease the financial burden of lung cancer, which is the costliest cancer at $2.9 billion each year.
From pilot to national program
Implementing lung cancer screening is highly complex and demanding for healthcare systems. The NHS has successfully piloted such a program: the Targeted Lung Health Checks (TLHCs), which invited eligible people for a free check of their lungs in easily accessible, mobile CT units.
Since 2018, the initiative has boosted early diagnosis in deprived areas, catching 2,000 lung cancers, 76% at an early stage.
In September 2022, the UK’s National Screening Committee gave a positive recommendation for the introduction of the country’s first targeted national cancer screening program, with the TLHCs as the starting point.
The rollout of a national screening program aims to diagnose 9,000 lung cancers annually at an early, possibly curable stage. The investment in the scheme is $329 million per year.
The radiology workload
Expanding lung cancer screening will save or improve the quality of many people’s lives. However, it will also generate close to a million scans annually at a time when the radiology workforce is already under strain.
The latest census from the Royal College of Radiologists revealed a staff shortage of 29%. All the clinical directors surveyed for this report are worried about staff morale and burnout in their departments.
AI for lung nodule management
AI is one of the innovations to support radiologists reporting on lung cancer screening scans. In his statement, Steve Barclay mentioned the potential of Saige Lung to “allow radiologists to report scans 40% faster.” This benefit is based on results from a clinical study with two radiologists, which showed an average 40% reduction in reading time when reporting on pulmonary nodules with Saige Lung.
Saige Lung helps achieve these time-savings by automatically detecting pulmonary nodules, measuring, classifying, and tracking their growth. It is now used at 100 European sites, over 40 of them in the UK, analyzing thousands of chest CT scans each week.
We recognize that the impact of our technology on the radiology workflow is made possible by our collaboration with UK partners such as Heart&Lung Health, TMC, Alliance Medical, InHealth, and Cimar.
Ready and willing
Making screening available to everyone in the UK is a turning point in the fight against lung cancer. It’s fantastic news—and the beginning of a lot of work toward making it a reality. With our NHS track record, we are confident that we can support the implementation of countrywide screening with AI lung solutions.