Earlier diagnosis of brain tumours – a step closer to a cure
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have announced changes this week that have the potential to save up to 5,000 lives a year by streamlining the referral process for cancer diagnosis. NICE’s new guidelines have updated the symptoms that could potentially be caused by a cancer and provide for new GP powers to order certain tests directly. These powers circumvent time consuming referrals to specialists and will speed up access to treatment for patients.
The guidelines now recommend that a patient with symptoms that have a 3 in 100 chance of being cancer are referred for tests and allows CT scans and internal examinations, such as endoscopies, to be available without a specialist referral to allow the cancer to be spotted earlier. Professor Mark Baker of NICE stated that the policy would save a “tangible number” of lives and would address the poor levels of cancer survival in Britain in comparison the rest of Europe.
Far more options are open to doctors when a cancer is diagnosed early and there is the chance to catch the tumour before it has grown or spread to levels where an operation or other treatment is not feasible. There is a clear correlation between survival rate and early diagnosis and we hope that these steps are just the beginning of system wide changes to diagnosis and treatment. We are hoping that the Cancer Taskforce, set to release their recommendations later this summer, will have a particular focus on rarer and less common cancers; from the diagnosis of harder to spot symptoms to renewed focus on research.
It is only through a combination of better diagnosis and improvement in treatments, which only research can provide, that we see the results in cancer survival we need. Whilst we welcome the NICE guideline changes, we implore the Government and NHS to recognise the desperate need for more funding into research and will continue to campaign until this is a reality.