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Lung cancer screening coming to Prince George

Eligible people will be able to get screened at seven hospitals in northern B.C.
University Hospital of Northern BC UHNBC Prince George
Lung cancer screening will be available at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George, and six other northern B.C. hospitals.

BC Cancer is launching a lung cancer screening program for people at the highest risk of developing the deadly disease.

People between the ages of 55 and 74 who currently or previously smoked, and have a smoking history of 20 years or more, will be able to register to get screened for lung cancer at 36 sites across the province – including seven locations in northern B.C. Patients who meet the above criteria should call the Lung Screening Program at 1-877-717-5864 to complete a consultation and risk assessment.

BC Cancer clinicians and researchers led by Dr. Stephen Lam, medical director of the BC Cancer Lung Screening Program, will lead the program’s launch.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide," lung screening program medical director Dr. Stephen Lam said in a statement issued on Wednesday. "In B.C., seven people die of lung cancer every day. With 70 (per cent) of all cases diagnosed at an advanced stage, the Lung Screening Program aims to change this trend by detecting the majority of lung cancers at an early stage when treatment is more effective."

In the Northern Health region, screening will be available at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. in Prince George, GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel, Fort St. John Hospital, Dawson Creek and District Hospital, Bulkley Valley District Hospital in Smithers, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital.

B.C. will be the first province in Canada to have province-wide lung cancer screening available. The program is expected to

B.C. is now the first province in Canada to introduce a province-wide lung-screening program. The program is expected to screen 10,000 patients and diagnose roughly 150 cases of lung cancer in the first year. Of those roughly 150 people, 75 per cent of them are expected to have been diagnosed earlier than they otherwise would have been.

In 2018, 3,435 British Columbians were diagnosed with lung cancer and 2,315 people in the province died of the disease, according to data released by BC Cancer. As estimated 240 people per year are diagnosed with lung cancer in the Northern Health region, as of 2021.

BC Cancer is providing $2.75 million in annual funding for the program. The BC Cancer Foundation provided $1.93 million to help purchase specialized software to conduct the screenings, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer provided $800,000 in funding to help start the program.

The screening will use the province’s current CT scanners, and the test only takes 15 seconds.

"The launch of Canada's first province-wide Lung Screening Program is a credit to the team at BC Cancer, who are dedicated to quality patient care and passionate about reducing the burden of cancer in British Columbia, including for Indigenous people who are disproportionately impacted by lung cancer," said David Byres, president of the Provincial Health Services Authority. "I'd like to thank our government and community partners as well as our health-care workers and researchers who made this program a reality."