„I had no recognizable symptoms“
Detecting lung cancer at an early stage: the HANSE Study, sponsored by the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) and the Lung Ambition Alliance, as the largest German early detection program, makes this its goal. Since July 2021, Hannover Medical School (MHH), as one of three study sites in Northern Germany, invites (ex-)smokers between the ages of 55 and 79 years to attend a lung screening. Prerequisite: an elevated risk profile for lung cancer. Since then, over 600 people have been tested for lung cancer at the Hannover site. One of these is the 72-year-old Gerhard Lunow. For him, the diagnosis was made in time: his cancer was detected at an early stage and could be treated successfully.
Mobile lung screening using low-dose computer tomography
At the MHH, lung screening is carried out by an interdisciplinary team from the Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and the Pneumology Clinic. The test subjects are examined using modern and gentle low-dose computer tomography (CT). In this way, lung tumors can be detected at an early stage and the mortality rate from lung cancer reduced. The test is carried out in a mobile study truck, which alternates between the three study sites, Hannover, Lübeck and Großhansdorf near Hamburg. „Up to now, we have been able to identify more than 3500 high risk test persons and invite them for lung screening“, says Professor Dr. Jens Vogel-Claussen, Study Leader and radiologist at the MHH.
„In the early stages, lung cancer often causes no symptoms, whereby it is often only diagnosed in the advanced or metastasized stage. That reduces the chances of recovery“, says Dr. Benjamin-Alexander Bollmann, senior physician at the Pneumology Clinic. The HANSE lung screening should prove that a comprehensive and effective lung cancer screening program in Germany can be implemented for people with an increased risk. „Using the modern low-dose CT, in the HANSE Study we are looking not only for early stages of lung cancer but also at the heart and lung, in order to implement holistic care in an examination taking only a few seconds“ says Vogel-Claussen. Before taking part in the study, the individual risk profile must be determined, which those interested can calculate on the HANSE Study website. Only those with an elevated risk will be invited to have a low-dose CT scan. The most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking.
„I had no signs of lung cancer“
Gerhard Lunow and his wife were made aware of the study by their daughter, who works at the MHH. „We were initially sceptical, but we then decided to take part – hoping in the background that everything would go well. „The opposite turned out to be the case for me“, says Lunow. The 72-year-old had been smoking for decades. He did not recognize the symptoms for lung cancer. „I felt physically fit, there were no signs of lung cancer. However, after the HANSE CT examination, I learned that I already had an early stage of lung cancer“, says the 72-year-old.
Improved chances of recovery due to screening
Those with lung tumors that are detected at an early stage have a better chance of recovery. The tumors are often still small, localized and have not yet spread. These can be easily treated. After Lunow received his diagnosis, he underwent keyhole surgery at the Lung Cancer Center at the MHH. After a subsequent stay at a rehabilitation center, the time has now come for the relevant after-care and check-ups. Further measures such as radio- or chemotherapy have, thanks to the early treatment, not yet been necessary. „The screening has given me the courage and hope that a recovery process is possible for lung cancer“, says Lunow.
No more smoking
Gerhard Lunow and his wife have drawn the line and stopped smoking. „It does take a lot of effort. But to know that the findings are in fact curable and a certain stability can be expected for the coming years, gives me strength. I have smoked enough in my lifetime. Now is the time to stop“, says Lunow. In their circle of friends and acquaintances, he and his wife now pass on their knowledge and are mediators wherever they feel it is necessary.
The HANSE Lung Screening Program runs until Summer 2023. Registration is possible online at www.hanse-lungencheck.de.
Further information about the study is available from Professor Dr. Jens Vogel-Claussen, Scientific Director of the HANSE Study, Vogel-Claussen.Jens@mh-hannover.de.