A third with cancer ‘failed to see GP’

Peo­ple urged to be aware of symp­toms

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - BEN BAR­NETT NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT Email: ben.bar­[email protected] Twit­ter: @benbthewri­ter

More peo­ple are be­ing urged to act early when they sus­pect cancer symp­toms, as a study found three in ev­ery 10 peo­ple di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease had not vis­ited their doc­tor at all.

MORE PEO­PLE are be­ing urged to act early when they sus­pect cancer symp­toms, as a new study found thou­sands of peo­ple di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease in A&E ev­ery year have vis­ited their GP at least three times – while three in ev­ery 10 had not vis­ited their doc­tor at all.

In the most com­pre­hen­sive study to date, 71 per cent of all pa­tients di­ag­nosed in A&E had seen their GP at least once with symp­toms that turned out to be cancer.

Of those who saw their GP with symp­toms, 41 per cent had sought help three or more times; 59 per cent had seen their GP once or twice. Some had dif­fi­cult-to-spot can­cers, such as lung cancer or mul­ti­ple myeloma, and tended to be younger or fe­male.

But the group also in­cluded peo­ple with com­mon can­cers. An anal­y­sis of data from 2010 of 4,637 peo­ple di­ag­nosed in A&E found 31 per cent of breast cancer pa­tients vis­ited their GP three or more times, as did pa­tients with bowel cancer (41 per cent) and prostate cancer (37 per cent).

In the study, pub­lished in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Gen­eral Prac­tice, the au­thors, in­clud­ing from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don (UCL), Cam­bridge Univer­sity and Public Health Eng­land, found those pa­tients who had never been to their GP tended to be older, male and liv­ing in the most de­prived re­gions of Eng­land.

Mean­while, A&E pa­tients di­ag­nosed with com­mon can­cers, such as breast cancer, who had vis­ited their GP three times or more, may be pre­sent­ing with atyp­i­cal symp­toms.

Dr Ge­or­gios Lyrat­zopou­los, a lead re­searcher at UCL, said: “Th­ese find­ings tell us that some pa­tients di­ag­nosed as an emer­gency might not be act­ing on ‘red­flag’ symp­toms which could have prompted them to visit their GP.

“There’s also a host of other fac­tors that may be at play. For ex­am­ple, many el­derly pa­tients may find it dif­fi­cult to get to the surgery or have other con­di­tions which would pre­vent them from seek­ing an ap­point­ment, such as de­men­tia.

“This high­lights the need to ex­plore all the rea­sons why can­cers are di­ag­nosed late, in­clud­ing what hap­pens out­side GP surg­eries. It also shows that late di­ag­no­sis is more com­plex than it’s of­ten pre­sented to be.”

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health in­for­ma­tion at Cancer Re­search UK, added: “We need to con­tinue to in­crease aware­ness of cancer signs and symp­toms and help break down the bar­ri­ers pre­vent­ing peo­ple from see­ing their GP ear­lier, whilst GPs need bet­ter ac­cess to the right tests and re­fer­ral routes if we want to see this num­ber re­duced.”

Ju­dith Brodie, act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of Beat­ing Bowel Cancer, said: “It’s con­cern­ing that 41 per cent of bowel cancer pa­tients who are di­ag­nosed as emer­gen­cies had pre­vi­ously sought help from their GP three or more times.

“A bowel cancer pa­tient’s chance of be­ing suc­cess­fully treated drops dra­mat­i­cally if they are not di­ag­nosed un­til a late stage so more must be done to en­sure that the public is aware of the symp­toms and how im­por­tant it is to get them checked out as soon as pos­si­ble.”

It comes af­ter 24 hos­pi­tals in the North of Eng­land were found to not be meet­ing NHS stan­dards for less than one per cent of pa­tients wait­ing more than six weeks for di­ag­nos­tic tests.

Lat­est NHS Eng­land fig­ures show that at Mid York­shire Hos­pi­tals NHS Trust in Fe­bru­ary, as many as 25 per cent of pa­tients had to wait more than six weeks for a flex­i­ble sig­moi­doscopy, and 13 per cent for a colonoscop­y.

GPs need bet­ter ac­cess to the right tests and re­fer­ral routes. Dr Julie Sharp, head of health in­for­ma­tion at Cancer Re­search UK.

Aware­ness needs to be in­creased about the signs and symp­toms of cancer. DR JULIE SHARP:

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