Home Economics CT Scans For Lung Cancer - The Argument Against The NHS

CT Scans For Lung Cancer – The Argument Against The NHS



A glorious breakthrough from that Wonder of the World that is the National Health Service:

Thousands of lives could be saved if people at risk of developing Britain’s deadliest cancer were screened to diagnose it before it becomes incurable, a major NHS study has found.

Giving smokers and ex-smokers a CT scan uncovers cancerous lung tumours when they are at an early enough stage so they can still be removed, rather than continuing to grow unnoticed, it shows.

Experts are demanding the government moves to bring in routine CT scanning of smokers and ex-smokers in order to cut the huge death toll from lung cancer. About 48,000 people a year are diagnosed with the disease in the UK and 35,100 die from it – 96 a day.

How excellent that is!

And such a glory with which we can celebrate the different way we do things.

Screening means testing for a disease when there are no symptoms or history of that disease. Doctors recommend a screening test to find a disease early, when treatment may work better.

The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). During an LDCT scan, you lie on a table and an X-ray machine uses a low dose (amount) of radiation to make detailed images of your lungs. The scan only takes a few minutes and is not painful.

Who Should Be Screened?
In 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendedexternal icon yearly lung cancer screening with LDCT for people who—

Have a history of heavy smoking, and
Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
Are between 55 and 80 years old.


The Americans have been doing this for getting on for a decade now. So, how many have died because of the slowness of the NHS to keep up with modern technology?

More importantly perhaps, how do we get the NHS to keep up with modern technology? The answer being competition.

We do know that competitive markets work at driving forward new technology. That’s one of the things they just are good at. If there’s something out there that works and it provides a competitive advantage – keeping your patients alive doing that in medicine – then it will be more rapidly adopted than in a non-competitive system.

No, this does not mean that we have to adopt all of the American system – employment based health care insurance is a silly idea – but we should adopt some of it. We can stick with a monopoly of financing if we desire but we do need to move to competitive supply. As Germany, France etc all do of course.

That is, the solution to the NHS is to stop having the NHS. But then we knew that even if the idiots are currently moving in the opposite direction.



  1. When I used to have scans of various kinds it was usually a three month wait. That’s already having a condition needing diagnosis, not screening. Nowadays, same trust, you get an appointment in a couple of days. The reason? It’s done by a private venture, based in the industrial/warehouse part of town. Is this the evil privatization of the NHS?

  2. How about setting up a system where everybody is entitled to a free annual heath scan that includes blood tests etc. plus a set of additional tests based on age and gender/sex.
    People can choose where to get their test done and within a window, when. Their choice is important because after the tests have been done to a required standard the difference between the government set allowance for the testing and what the provider charges at that time and location is refunded. Half the refund goes to the customer and the other half to the NHS. This incentivises the customer to get the tests done and gets them done at a cost far better than the NHS could ever match, pumps money back into the NHS and saves the NHS money by detecting conditions before they become more expensive to treat. It also puts money directly back into the individual taxpayers pocket.

    • Why annual? Why not every 8 months or every 16 months? Who knows? I certainly don’t but the chance of the optimal interval landing on one year for all those issues is vanishingly small. Why not have a system where the people who know about healthcare have a market incentive to look after their paying customers and let them work out the best form and interval of regular screening,

  3. You quote “In 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended yearly lung cancer screening with LDCT…” but then say “The Americans have been doing this for getting on for a decade now”. That does not follow. A recommendation to do something is not proof that it is then done. Especially in America where patients may not be able to afford it. I can find no figures to say how widely LDCT is actually done.

    But anyway, there is a danger of getting over excited at early diagnosis. Without the test, maybe a patient would have been diagnosed in 2023 and died in 2025 – a survival period of two years, while if we tested them today we could diagnose them three years earlier, treat them and they might live five years instead… until 2025 when they would have died anyway.

    And there’s nothing in anything you quote that shows the NHS is doing anything wrong with respect to new treatments. The Guardian article seems like it is reporting results, but it refers the SUMMIT study, which is registered here: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03934866 which shows the estimated study completion date as August 2030. The study also has a website at https://summitstudy.co.uk where you can find out a bit more.

    The most effective way to avoid dying of lung cancer is to give up, or never start, smoking.

  4. Bongo, perhaps the incentive of the service is to not find out early about illness because it hasn’t the ‘resources’ to treat any more than it already does. Does it save money to treat early? Not current year money, that’s for sure.


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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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