Wide variation in number of patients GPs refer with suspected cancer

July 31, 2012

Information published today by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) reveals wide variation across England in the numbers of patients with suspected cancer that GP practices refer to secondary care.

This is the first time information on cancer referrals from individual GP practices has been made available publically.  Amongst other things it shows that the variation in the rate of urgent GP referrals to hospital specialists for patients suspected of having cancer is more than three-fold, ranging from under 830 to over 2,550 urgent referrals in every 100,000 people a year.  It also shows a wide gap in the proportion of those patients referred who then go on to be diagnosed with cancer.

Dr. Mick Peake, clinical lead for the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), said: “The data are not easy to interpret since we do not know what the ‘optimum’ level is for these measures and although the data are adjusted for age, there may be other differences in the characteristics of the patients of a particular GP practice that impact on local referral rates.   However the range of the variation is so wide that, at the extremes, it probably reflects differing standards of care.”

These data have already proved valuable to practices, who can use them to benchmark the outcomes of the patients they refer urgently with suspected cancer.

They are now being made available publically as part of the Government’s open data strategy.  Anyone will be able to look up information about their GP practice including the number of cancers diagnosed at the practice, the number of people who have screening and the numbers sent through the two-week wait referral system.

Di Riley, associate director for the NCIN’s clinical outcomes programme, said: “Although the number of people GPs refer  isn’t on its own an indicator of how good they are at spotting the early signs of cancer, it’s clear from these data that there’s variation that needs to be addressed.

“It’s important to remember that GPs have a hard job and many of the symptoms of cancer are very similar to many other illnesses. But we must do more to understand the reasons for the variation.”

The average GP will only see seven who have each year. These break down as one case each of breast, bowel, prostate and lung cancers, plus three cancers of other types.

Explore further: Nearly 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of diagnosis

Related Stories

Nearly 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of diagnosis

March 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Almost 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of being diagnosed according to new analysis by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), published today.

Bowel, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers show biggest improvement in diagnosis time

November 8, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New research shows that bowel, oesophageal and pancreatic cancers have seen the greatest improvement in the time it takes from when a patient first visits their GP with symptoms to when they are diagnosed ...

Latest cancer research unveiled

June 20, 2011
Two leading experts from the Division of Cancer Studies at King’s presented their latest research into cancer survival this week at the National Cancer Intelligence Network conference in London.

Screening helps early diagnosis of bowel cancer

June 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Patients who attend bowel screening are more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage - when there is a better chance of survival - than those who wait until they have symptoms of the ...

Study examines number of GP visits before cancer patients are referred to specialists

February 23, 2012
More than three quarters (77%) of cancer patients who first present to their family doctors (GPs) with suspicious symptoms are referred to hospital after only one or two consultations, a new study has found. However, the ...

More lung cancer patients would survive for longer if surgery rates increased

November 15, 2011
Many more lung cancer patients would survive for longer if they had surgery to remove the disease, according to research published in the European Journal of Cancer.

Recommended for you

Study provides insight into link between two rare tumor syndromes

August 22, 2017
UCLA researchers have discovered that timing is everything when it comes to preventing a specific gene mutation in mice from developing rare and fast-growing cancerous tumors, which also affects young children. This mutation ...

Retaining one normal BRCA gene in breast, ovarian cancers influences patient survival

August 22, 2017
Determining which cancer patients are likely to be resistant to initial treatment is a major research effort of oncologists and laboratory scientists. Now, ascertaining who might fall into that category may become a little ...

Clear link between heavy vitamin B intake and lung cancer

August 22, 2017
New research suggests long-term, high-dose supplementation with vitamins B6 and B12—long touted by the vitamin industry for increasing energy and improving metabolism—is associated with a two- to four-fold increased lung ...

Study identifies miR122 target sites in liver cancer and links a gene to patient survival

August 22, 2017
A new study of a molecule that regulates liver-cell metabolism and suppresses liver-cancer development shows that the molecule interacts with thousands of genes in liver cells, and that when levels of the molecule go down, ...

Zebrafish larvae could be used as 'avatars' to optimize personalized treatment of cancer

August 21, 2017
Portuguese scientists have for the first time shown that the larvae of a tiny fish could one day become the preferred model for predicting, in advance, the response of human malignant tumors to the various therapeutic drugs ...

Scientists discover vitamin C regulates stem cell function, curbs leukemia development

August 21, 2017
Not much is known about stem cell metabolism, but a new study from the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) has found that stem cells take up unusually high levels of vitamin C, which then ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.