Increased support for GPs to diagnose cancer
Posted on 24th November 2014 by William O'Brien in Lobbying
The announcement of increased support for GPs to diagnose cancer last week is an extremely welcome step by the Government and we fully support the programme. Earlier diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential to saving lives in the fight against cancer and we call on the new support to be as wide ranging as possible, including the symptoms of rarer cancers such as brain tumours.
By diagnosing a cancer early we are in a much better position to treat and cure it. Far more options are open to doctors 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 but unfortunately in the UK far too many people are being diagnosed when their tumour is already in an advanced stage.
The Route to Diagnosis project by the National Cancer Intelligence Network has found that 23% of all cancers are diagnosed in A&E as an emergency. This figure is even more shocking when broken down to brain tumours and CNS cancer, where 58% of all patients are diagnosed late as an emergency presentation. On top of this, the Government has announced that the target of 85% of cancer patients treated within 62 days of referral has been missed. 15,000 patients waited longer than the 62 day target, the worst performance the NHS has recorded on this current measure.
Thousands of patients could be saved if diagnosed earlier and treated faster and we hope that this new project will be the beginning of shift towards better care for cancer patients.
The new guidelines for GPs are open for a public consultation which Brain Tumour Research will take part in. While we support the general aim of the project we will argue that focus for GPs should be on symptoms of less common cancers as these are where patients are most likely to face a late diagnosis. It is of course difficult for GPs to diagnose cancers such as brain tumours as they do not see the symptoms often, with the average GP only seeing very few brain cancer patients a year. This difficulty is exactly why the Department of Health and NHS need to focus on ensuring the support is there for GPs to spot these cancers and save lives.