I smoked in my youth, am I eligible for an NHS lung test?

NHS trials new scheme to offer all ex-smokers in England middle-aged lung screening

Man pointing at lung test
The NHS is set to offer a lung test to all past and present middle aged smokers. (Getty Images)

We all know that smoking is terrible for your health. It causes 70% of all lung cancer cases, and can increase your risk of developing heart disease, having a stroke and having a heart attack.

But what if you smoked as a teenager or as a young adult and then quit? How much damage could smoking have really done?

You may be able to find out soon under a new screening programme from the NHS which is set to be rolled out to current or former smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 in the UK.

Read more: Woman who doesn’t smoke diagnosed with incurable lung cancer and wants to warn others - Yahoo Life UK, 4-min read

This means that everyone in this age bracket who has smoked in the past will be offered a lung screening test which could prevent lung cancer or catch it sooner for up to 9,000 people.

Nearly 35,000 people die from lung cancer each year in the UK, and up to 79% of cases are preventable.

The new screening initiative follows a successful pilot scheme based in deprived areas of the country where people are four times more likely to smoke. This resulted in more than 2,000 people being diagnosed with cancer, with 76% at an early stage.

Asian Male doctor using a stethoscope to examining senior woman's lung and heartbeat during a healthcare home visit.
The NHS wants to complete the rollout of lung screenings for 55 to 74-year-olds by 2030. (Getty Images)

How to get a lung screening test

If you smoked in your youth, you will be eligible for a lung screening test once you hit the age of 55. If you are already aged between 55 and 74 and are a smoker or have smoked, you will now be eligible for the screening – but it might still be a few years before you can actually get one as the NHS is rolling out the scheme in phases.

The rollout should mean that 325,000 people are newly eligible for the scan each year, with 992,000 screenings expected to take place annually.

Read more: Experts debunk common lung cancer misconceptions - Herald Magazine, 3-min read

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that the first phase of the scheme will reach 40% of those who qualify by March 2025 with the aim of reaching 100% of 55 to 74-year-old past or present smokers by March 2030.

After being invited to a scan, anyone at high risk of lung cancer will be referred to have a low dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) scan where treatment will follow if needed.

Asian female doctors speculate on X-ray images from virus corona-infected lung patients.
Those who receive a negative lung scan will be invited for a screening every two years. (Getty Images)

Those who have a scan that comes back negative will be invited to re-do the scan every two years until they pass the upper age limit.

If you have not been invited for a lung health check but feel you should be, you can contact your GP to see if you can be referred.

Read more: Susannah Reid says Sarah Ferguson’s breast cancer diagnosis is a ‘wake-up call’ not to ignore routine screenings - Yahoo Life UK, 3-min read

No matter your age, if you notice some symptoms of lung cancer, including a cough that does not go away after three weeks, chest infections that keep coming back, coughing up blood, an ache or pain when breathing or coughing, and persistent breathlessness, you should make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible.

Watch: Smokers and ex-smokers aged 55-74 to be offered free lung cancer screenings