Respiratory screening to prevent or early-detect lung cancer

Written by: Dr Anjani Prasad
Published: | Updated: 05/09/2023
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Respiratory screening for lung cancer works on the premise that prevention is better than cure. The tests are carried out on an individual with a specific profile and before any symptoms of the disease arise.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers with approximately 44,500 people diagnosed with the illness every year in the UK alone. The stage of diagnosis, particularly early detection, is important to the success of treatment and the patient’s survival rate.

Respiratory physician Dr Anjani Prasad explains just who exactly should be screened and what can be expected during the test.

How does lung cancer screening work in the UK?

Currently, in the UK, there isn’t a national screening programme. Private clinics, however, offer screening tests that can help spot the early signs of lung cancer.


Who is the ideal candidate for respiratory screening?

The people with a high risk for lung cancer, such as those who:

Other people with a relatively high risk for developing lung cancer may include people who:

  • Have smoked cannabis for many years
  • Live in households with high levels of cigarette smoke
  • Have worked in occupations where they have been exposed to chemicals such as asbestos, arsenic, coal fumes, nickel, silica and beryllium
  • Have been exposed heavily to diesel fumes through work or living in a highly-polluted area
  • Have been exposed to high levels of nitrogen oxide from heavy traffic fumes
  • Live in areas known to contain radon in the rocks and soils.

A respiratory screening test for those who fall into a higher risk bracket could spot any early signs of lung cancer.


How are the lungs screened?

The recommended test for lung cancer screening is known as a low-dose computed tomography (or a low-dose CT scan).

During the test an X-ray machine scans the inside of the body, taking images to see if there are any abnormalities. The LDCT uses low doses of radiation.


What are the risks of lung cancer screening?

There are a number of risks involved, which is why screening is only required for people in the high-risk group. The risks involve:

  • A false-positive result, as the screening tests are not wholly reliable. This might lead to follow-up tests or even unnecessary surgery, which may also increase the risk further.
  • Over-diagnosis where cancers are detected that may never have caused a serious problem, which may also lead to surgery that is not required.
  • Repeated exposure to radiation from LDCT tests can cause cancer in healthy people.

Despite the risks, however, there are benefits from regular screening, which can be discussed with a specialist.


What happens if the screening tests positive for lung cancer?

In order to destroy cancer cells, surgery is often combined with chemotherapy. Your doctor will discuss an individualised treatment plan with you to ensure that you are fully informed of all options, tests and any possible side effects from treatment.



If a respiratory screening test is something that you would like to discuss with Dr Prasad don't hesitate to send him a message via his Top Doctor’s profile today and his secretary will be in touch.

By Dr Anjani Prasad
Pulmonology & respiratory medicine

Dr Anjani Prasad is a leading consultant in respiratory and general medicine with a specialist interest in asthma, allergy and interventional pulmonology. He is based in Buckinghamshire and currently sees patients at BMI The Chiltern Hospital, The Princess Margaret Hospital and The Shelburn Hospital.

He trained as a respiratory specialist in Oxford and has been a consultant since 2005. He has experience in specialised interventional procedures such as EBUS (Endobronchial Ultrasound), endobronchial stenting, valves and coils. Other interests include sleep disorders, pleural disease and sleep apnoea.

He manages patients with the entire range of respiratory conditions including, allergy, asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, lung cancer, lung fibrosis, lung infections including TB, pulmonary nodules, sarcoidosis, sleep apnoea, unexplained cough or breathlessness.

Dr Prasad has extensive experience of acute general and emergency medicine. He works closely with a multidisciplinary team, including physicians, surgeons, radiologists, specialist nurses, physiotherapists, physiologists and pathologists to provide the best treatment and the best outcome for each patient.

Dr Prasad has excellent feedback from his patients. He gives attention to patient details to understand their concerns and tailors treatment to their preferences.

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