Last reviewed 21 November 2023
NHS England has announced that more than 2200 people in high-risk communities have been newly identified as being at risk of liver cancer, through the use of NHS roaming “liver trucks”.
Twelve mobile on-the-spot liver scanning trucks have been touring 18 areas of England in a drive to detect more cancers earlier.
The trucks are visiting high-risk communities at GP practices, recovery services, food banks, diabetes clinics, sexual health clinics and homeless shelters to perform quick, non-invasive scans.
Tests are offered to adults with high levels of alcohol consumption, a current diagnosis or history of past viral hepatitis or non-alcoholic liver disease, as these factors increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
The data show the trucks have performed more than 26,500 hi-tech fibroscans and identified 2204 people with cirrhosis or advanced fibrosis between June 2022 and September 2023. The majority of those people have been referred on to further care.
Under the Hepatitis C Elimination Programme, at-risk communities are already being visited by NHS staff. This was expanded in June 2022 to include a liver health check involving an on-the-spot fibrosis scan which detects liver damage.
Individuals who are deemed at high risk of liver cancer or cirrhosis are being given information about their level of risk and, where appropriate, referred to their GP. If necessary, patients are referred straight into a six-month liver surveillance care programme where they are partnered with a peer support worker who will continue to check in, as well as offer guidance.
Only one in three liver cancers are currently diagnosed at an early stage but the initiative is helping to detect more cancers earlier. If caught early, patients have a 45% chance of survival for five years or more with treatment, compared to just 5% of those diagnosed at stage four.
NHS Clinical Director for Cancer Professor Peter Johnson said liver cancers are increasing year on year but finding them early gives the best chance of successful treatment. He said: “Bringing liver scans into the heart of communities has already helped us find thousands of people with liver damage that needs further monitoring, investigation, or treatment; and in the future, we expect to help tens of thousands more patients receive a diagnosis sooner.”