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One In Four Waits A Month For Cancer Referral

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One In Four Waits A Month For Cancer Referral

Post  Annabel on Fri 25 Nov - 8:31

http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news

One In Four Waits A Month For Cancer Referral



8:16am UK, Friday November 25, 2011

Katie Stallard, West of England correspondent
Nearly one in four patients presenting symptoms of cancer to their GP has to wait more than a month before being referred to a specialist, according to a report.

The National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, compiled by the Royal College of GPs, found 73.2% of patients visiting their GP were referred to a specialist after one or two consultations.

Of those, 60% were seen by a specialist within two weeks.

But the study, the first of its kind on this scale, showed 4% of patients with cancer symptoms had to see their GP at least five times before they were referred on to specialist care.

The good news is that many patients are identified promptly as needing specialist assessment, but we could do better and improved access to cancer tests would help in this.

Greg Rubin, professor of general practice and primary care at Durham University

One in five patients with cancers of the lung, ovary, pancreas and stomach had to go to their GP three times or more with symptoms.

Greg Rubin, professor of general practice and primary care at Durham University, led the research.

"This report provides the first detailed analysis of how GPs diagnose cancer," he said.

"The good news is that many patients are identified promptly as needing specialist assessment, but we could do better and improved access to cancer tests would help in this."

He told Sky News part of the problem was that some cancers were much more difficult to diagnose than others - and, while the symptoms were very common, cancers themselves were rare.

He said: "The average practice will have 30,000 consultations a year. Of these, around 10%, or 3,000 cases, will involve respiratory symptoms, but only four of these will be cancer.

"So, the difficulty is identifying those cases from among the very many people who don't have something wrong with them."

Dr Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "This report shows that in general practice we do a very good job of identifying our patients who have cancer, and in referring them quickly for specialist treatment.

"While there are groups of patients where we do, for various reasons, have difficulty in making a rapid diagnosis, we must be proud that the majority are being identified and put into secondary care quickly.

"At the same time, we must always be looking at how we can improve."

But getting access to a GP in the first instance can also be an issue.

Sky News spoke to Francis Cleary, a 32-year-old man with a form of adrenal cancer and an inoperable tumour.

When the pain first started last May, Mr Cleary told Sky he tried for three weeks to get an appointment to see his GP, only to be told there were none available.

Eventually, in excruciating pain, he went to his local hospital's accident and emergency department.

"During that time the pain was getting worse and worse each day, so much so that on the days when I did manage to go to work, I had to come home early," he said.

"Every day was another day that the disease was growing. Each day that nothing was being done about it, the cancer cells were just dividing and growing and spreading."

Since his diagnosis, Mr Cleary has had three months of chemotherapy and four cycles of radiation treatment.

At one stage, he was told he had just days to live.

He said: "Unfortunately the tumour is inoperable and the treatments that I've had are to stabilise the disease and improve my quality of life.

"How long that will continue I don't know and the doctors don't know either."

Annabel
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