Achieving earlier stage diagnosis is one option for improving lung cancer outcomes in the United Kingdom. Patients with lung cancer typically present with symptoms to general practitioners several times before referral or investigation.
We undertook a mixed methods feasibility individually randomised controlled trial (the ELCID trial) to assess the feasibility and inform the design of a definitive, fully powered, UK-wide, Phase III trial of lowering the threshold for urgent investigation of suspected lung cancer. Patients over 60, with a smoking history, presenting with new chest symptoms to primary care, were eligible to be randomised to intervention (urgent chest X-ray) or usual care.
The trial design and materials were acceptable to GPs and patients. We randomised 255 patients from 22 practices, although the proportion of eligible patients who participated was lower than expected. Survey responses (89%), and the fidelity of the intervention (82% patients X-rayed within 3 weeks) were good. There was slightly higher anxiety and depression in the control arm in participants aged more than 75. Three patients (1.2%) were diagnosed with lung cancer.
We have demonstrated the feasibility of individually randomising patients at higher risk of lung cancer, to a trial offering urgent investigation or usual care.