Smokers in Central Bedfordshire are being targeted in a new health programme.

The scheme is being backed by a great grandmother after it helped save her life

Theresa, a grandmother of 11 and great gran of one who lives in Luton, took part in the Targeted Lung Health Check programme – which is now launching in Central Bedfordshire – last year.

She said: “When I was invited in January 2021, I quickly made an appointment, having been a smoker, I thought it was best to get checked out.”

“After I had my lungs checked, I noticed a small lump on my breast, so when the call came to say they had found a lesion, I wasn’t surprised, but I was very scared. I had a few more tests and they confirmed cancer.”

The programme will help smokers

Theresa underwent an operation to remove the lump from her breast and three out of 15 lymph nodes, followed by chemotherapy.

She said: “I was impressed how quickly I was in, they said I had stage 2 or 3 cancer. I was grateful they found it early. I’m just so grateful to the team, they were all lovely.

“I say if you get the letter, don’t be scared, the team are friendly, make that call, it could save your life!”

Central Bedfordshire residents are now being invited to the programme, which screens for lung cancer, following the successful launch in Luton in 2021.

Bedfordshire has poor outcomes for lung cancer and some of the highest rates of smoking, with a significant percentage of the local population labelled as smokers or former smokers. The programme is one of the second wave of sites to be rolled out as part the NHS Long Term Plan.

Dr James Ramsay, Clinical Director for the Lung Health checks programme in Luton said: “ The Lung Health Check programme will allow hundreds of people to receive potentially life-saving treatment for conditions much earlier than they would have before. This will bring huge benefits for the local population.”

“Sadly, 20% of people in the UK still cannot name one symptom of lung cancer. This lack of awareness is one of the reasons why so many people with lung cancer are diagnosed at a later stage.

“We know if lung cancer is caught early, curative treatment is possible and people can go on to live life to the fullest. The difficulty has been finding it at those early stages!”

Existing and former smokers aged between 55 and 74 will be invited to have a free lung health check with a lung specialist at a convenient location close to where they live, this will initially be over the phone. If deemed high-risk they will be offered a low dose CT scan on a state of the art mobile unit.

Only those meeting the criteria set out in the programme will be invited to take part.

Everyone who is still a smoker will receive support from local Stop Smoking services. The Lung Health checks team began inviting people in April. Residents are invited via their GP practice. The programme will last for four years.