Leeds grandad's life saved after 'silent killer' cancer spotted by chance

The wife of a Leeds man who discovered he had kidney cancer by chance after a lung screening picked it up has thanked the "amazing" NHS for acting so quickly to save his life.
Andrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet.

Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe.Andrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet.

Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Andrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Grandfather Andrew MacNamara, 57, of Tingley underwent an operation to remove the kidney just over two weeks after he was diagnosed.

Mr MacNamara had ignored two invitations to take part in the Leeds Lung Health Check.

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The lift engineer said he didn't feel unwell and only went to the doctors if he was "dying in bed."

Andrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet.

Photo: Jonatghan GawthorpeAndrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet.

Photo: Jonatghan Gawthorpe
Andrew MacNamara from Tingley with his wife Janet. Photo: Jonatghan Gawthorpe

His wife Janet, 64, continually urged him to have the check and Mr McNamara finally went for the lung screening - in a mobile unit outside Asda in Middleton - at the end of January 2020.

He had a special type of X-ray called a screening CT scan and a lung function test.

Mr MacNamara's left kidney was enlarged and the lung screening picked it up.

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Blood tests also revealed he was suffering from previously undiagnosed diabetes.

He had a scan on his kidney on March 20 and a week later was told it was likely that he had kidney cancer and his left kidney would have to be removed.

Mr MacNamara underwent an operation at St James's Hospital to remove the kidney on April 17.

He had another scan just before Christmas which showed that the operation had been a success.

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Mr MacNamara said: "The only time I’d go to the doctors was if I was dying in my bed. If I was half-dying I would be on my way to work.

"I’d just take a painkiller and be on my way.

"I feel lucky that I went and got my lung checked. If it wasn't for that they wouldn't have known about my enlarged kidney."

Mrs MacNamara said "We can't thank the NHS enough for being so quick and saving his life. Thank you for being absolutely amazing all the way through."

Mr and Mrs MacNamara spoke to the YEP after it was revealed that people taking part in a pioneering lung screening trial in Leeds will now also be checked for kidney cancer following additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

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A new study, led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, will investigate whether an extra scan for kidney cancer can be effectively introduced to mobile lung screening programmes.

With a 10-second kidney scan now being added to the Leeds Lung Health Check, Mr MacNamara is urging people in Leeds to book an appointment at the unit if invited.

He said: "I was lucky that the doctors noticed something out of the ordinary on my lung scan, as they caught the top of the kidney, but I then needed to have a separate scan at hospital to fully check my kidneys. If they can scan the whole of the kidneys with the lungs at the same time that will be fantastic."

Every year, around 130 people in Leeds are diagnosed with kidney cancer.

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Since November 2018, the Leeds Lung Health Check has checked 6,300 people for early signs of lung disease.

The trial focuses specifically on people aged 55 to 80 who smoke or used to smoke, as they are at highest risk of developing lung cancer.

People in this group also have a high risk of developing kidney cancer.

From April 2021, those taking part in the trial will have the opportunity to benefit from an additional scan that can find kidney cancer at a very early stage when no symptoms are present.

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Grant Stewart, Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Cambridge and study lead, said: “Kidney cancer is currently a silent and lethal condition.

"It is often not diagnosed until the disease has passed the point at which we can easily cure it.

"Given that kidney cancer is largely curable if identified at an early stage when no symptoms are present, there has been international interest for many years amongst the scientific community in developing a potential screening programme for this ‘silent’ cancer.

“To establish if screening is possible, we will piggyback on the Leeds Lung Health Check and offer an extra CT scan for kidney cancer to those taking part in this important clinical trial. The extra scan will take just 10 seconds.

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“This will be the first study in the world to address uncertainties and test the clinical rationale and logistics required to see if we can develop a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial within a lung health check programme.

"By the end of the feasibility study, we will understand whether we can and should undertake a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial as we’ll know whether people are likely to take up this extra scan.”

The Leeds Lung Health Check is one of the largest lung screening trials in the UK.

The multimillion-pound programme, delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, aims to test screening in community settings and provide information for future lung screening programmes.

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Dr Stuart Griffiths, Director of Research and Services at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “Yorkshire Cancer Research is committed to saving lives by improving the early diagnosis of cancer in Yorkshire. Screening is a powerful way to improve cancer survival by finding cancers that are too small to see or feel.

“Through the Yorkshire Kidney Screening Trial, we are starting to consider the possibility of creating a one-stop-shop for screening, where we can look at various ways to improve people’s health while they are in a medical setting.

"It’s vital that we find more efficient ways to diagnose cancer at the earliest possible stage and give more people the opportunity to go on to lead long and healthy lives after cancer.”

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