Life-saving cancer checks come to Wirral

Lung checks that have saved lives across Cheshire and Merseyside are launching in Wirral soon.

The NHS checks have been finding lung problems, including cancer at its earliest stages when it is much easier to treat successfully, for several years in Liverpool, Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, and south Sefton – and they will roll out across Wirral from the start of June.

More than one million people in England aged 55 to 74 who smoke or used to smoke have already been invited for a free Targeted Lung Health Check as part of the biggest programme to improve early lung cancer diagnosis in health service history.

The checks pinpoint those most at risk who are then offered a chest scan to rule out health problems or prompt more investigation or treatment.

In Cheshire and Merseyside, out of 35,800 CT scans carried out so far, 412 lung cancers have been found, with 85% at the early stages of 1 or 2. People diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage are nearly 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those whose disease is found late.

The lung health checks will be offered to people on a rolling basis over the next two years across different parts of Wirral from 31 May, with Warrington also offering the checks from September and north Sefton following in early 2026.

Owen McGrath

Owen McGrath is grateful he did not ignore his lung health check appointment as a scan found cancer growing in his left lung – and after treatment he is now cured. “I’m just so glad I went for the check,” said 71-year-old Owen, who was given a scan through the Cheshire and Merseyside programme.

“I didn’t expect the scan to show anything at all, but I later got a call to say they had found something. It was a shock, but it meant I was then given more in-depth scans and tests before they confirmed that it was cancer. They told me on my birthday but, to be honest, I was just glad they had caught it!

“The treatment wasn’t too bad,” said Owen. “When people think about lung cancer, they think it’s a death sentence, especially if the cancer is growing like mine was, but that is just not true. The treatments they have now mean that you have a chance to get through it. I thought that the treatment itself would be hard on me, but I found it okay – and I’m still alive!”

Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer, claiming the lives of more people than breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers combined. It is a particular issue in parts of Cheshire and Merseyside, with local incidence significantly above the national average.

However, these simple lung checks can significantly improve survival rates by detecting cancer much earlier, even before symptoms appear. But for the checks to work, people need to attend their appointment – even if they feel well.

Dr Chris Warbuton

Dr Chris Warburton, lung health check Clinical Director of Programme, said, “We are delighted that eligible people in Wirral will soon be able to have these checks.

‘’We’ve seen the amazing impact of them since the programme was first launched in Liverpool a few years ago. Lung cancer can be difficult to detect early, which is why so many people are diagnosed when the disease has become incurable. But these checks are helping us to diagnose more people earlier, when cancer is far easier to treat.

“That’s why we want everyone who is given an appointment to attend it. The chances are that you won’t have any symptoms of lung problems – but should have the check whether you feel well or not. For the majority of those who attend, everything will be fine, but for those who do have something wrong, catching it early can make all the difference.

“Targeted Lung Health Checks are painless, quick, convenient and free of charge, so if you are given an appointment for one. Please do not ignore it.”

Owen added, “I would say to anyone who is offered a lung health check, just do it. Act on it immediately. You can’t ignore a free check-up – it could save your life!”

People invited to have the check will be sent an appointment in a text or letter for a telephone conversation with a lung health nurse and people considered to have a higher risk of lung cancer will be offered a low dose CT scan in a mobile unit.

This scan is far more accurate at picking up cancer than a standard X-ray. The programme also offers support on how best to quit smoking for those who are ready to make the change.

For more information about the Targeted Lung Health Check programme, visit: https://www.lhch.nhs.uk/lung-health-check

Lead image: A lung health check scan taking place

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The Cheshire and Merseyside mobile scanning unit