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GPs supported to spot cancer earlier

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

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Cancer research UK has announced a new partnership with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust that it says will support GPs to improve the early diagnosis of cancer, increasing patients’ chances of survival.

The charity pointed out that because GPs see, on average, just eight new cases of cancer a year among a total of 6000 to 8000 consultations, it can be extremely difficult to spot the often vague signs and symptoms of cancer in a 10-minute appointment. So it has joined forces with the Royal Marsden to develop a programme of training and support for GPs through a series of online learning modules, regular events and expert discussions.

Primary and secondary care colleagues will collaborate on finding new ways to overcome the diagnostic challenges of particular cancers in a series of education days. The first event, being held later this month, will focus on key symptoms of women’s breast, ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers, and sources of relevant information and support. There is also an associated online educational module. Participating GPs’ feedback will help shape the content of future programmes.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: “GPs play a vital role in detecting cancer early when patients have the best chance of survival. For example, over 70% of lung cancer patients diagnosed at the earliest stage survive for at least one year compared to fewer than 15% of those diagnosed at a late stage.

“By engaging GPs and asking for their feedback, we can work with The Royal Marsden to design courses and events to address common themes, supporting clinicians with targeted learning to help spot cancers sooner.”

Liz Bates, Cancer Research UK’s GP engagement lead, added: “The majority of the 330,000 people diagnosed with cancer each year in the UK will start with a visit to their GP.

“But … each individual GP only sees around eight new cases of cancer each year and they’ll only have 10 minutes in which to spot these patients. That means it’s essential for us to give doctors the best possible resources and opportunities to collaborate to spot the warning signs and refer suspected cases quickly.

“This partnership will bring together two of the biggest players in the fight against cancer with the aim of helping more GPs to spot the signs earlier, giving patients the best chance of beating the disease.”

Do you think the proposals set out in the ‘NHS Five Year Forward View’ are achievable? (See OnMedica News 23/10)

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