Findings from a research study looking into providing patients with the result of their chest X-ray immediately, to cut lung cancer diagnosis time in half, have been published in the medical journal Thorax.

Led by Dr Nick Woznitza, Consultant Radiographer at University College London Hospitals and Clinical Academic in the School of Allied and Public Health, the study aims to benefit huge numbers of people with suspected lung cancer every year, shortening diagnosis time and improving patient experience.

The National Optimal Lung Cancer Pathway (NOLCP) recommends rapid progression from abnormal chest X-rays to CT chest scans, preferably with a single patient attendance. The findings from the study, funded by Cancer Research UK, suggest that ‘immediate reporting by radiographers significantly shortened the time to diagnosis by around 31 days, cutting usual diagnosis and waiting time by half.

Results also show that radiographer reports, pioneered by Canterbury Christ Church University in 1994, are comparable to consultant radiologists, supporting the use of trained radiographers to help increase reporting resources in the NHS.

The report, published in Thorax, has been co-authored by Dr Bhagabati Ghimire, Lecturer in Epidemiology and Public Health at Brunel University, who commented on the findings.

“I would like to congratulate Nick and team for this great work and its publication,” she said.

"Lung cancer in most cases, is detected quite late, reducing chances of survival. This study certainly sheds light on the steps we could take forward to reduce time to diagnosis and early detection of lung cancer as well as achieve the national 28-day standard for time from referral to diagnosis."

Dr Nick Woznitza, was awarded an MBE In the Queen’s New Year Honours List for services to the NHS, in particular for his clinical and academic leadership skills in diagnostic radiography in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick’s clinical research and teaching are focused on how we can improve outcomes for patients by increasing diagnostic capacity, including COVID-19 and lung cancer

We know that the early, rapid and accurate diagnosis of lung cancer will help improve outcomes for patients. By utilising the expertise of reporting radiographers we found that we could reduce the time to diagnosis by half by giving patients the results of their X-rays at the time they were taken, explaining the findings and arranging a CT chest scan, the next part of their journey.

Dr Nick Woznitza, Consultant Radiographer at University College London Hospitals and Clinical Academic in the School of Allied and Public Health at Canterbury Christ Church University

The findings of this study have been used to inform the design of an England-wide project to evaluate the use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to examine X-rays. By using AI to triage suspicious chest X-rays, the trial aims to reduce the amount of time a patient has to wait from the first chest X-ray to cancer diagnosis.

Lung cancer is one of the most common cause of cancer deaths with around 47,000 people diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. Some lung cancer cases are missed in chest X-rays because some lung nodules can be difficult to spot, however working with AI technology together with a healthcare practitioner could also pick up cases earlier.

The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) awarded £3.2m to fund the wider project. The study is being led by Dr Nick Woznitza and Professor David Baldwin, Chair of NHS England’s Clinical Expert Group for Lung Cancer, and runs until June 2024. If the project demonstrates effectiveness, it could be introduced more widely across the health service.