Charity calls for bowel cancer test rule change

May 29, 2014, Cancer Research UK

A new report from Bowel Cancer UK says lives could be saved by relaxing the rules governing who GPs can refer for urgent bowel cancer tests.

The charity suggests there are also problems with waiting times, and with the quality of tests carried out when doctors have significant worries about bowel cancer.

The report - Diagnosing Bowel Cancer Early: Right Test, Right Time - found a third of patients sent for an endoscopy had seen a GP more than three times before being sent to a specialist.

And almost half of them were found to have cancer, according to the country-wide survey based on 708 responses and carried out in September 2013.

When referring patients suspected of having cancer, current guidelines allow doctors to flag a patient as either urgent or non-urgent when they refer them. But GPs are only allowed to send people for 'urgent' bowel cancer tests if they have symptoms graded as 'high risk' or 'alarm', such as bleeding.

But Bowel Cancer UK says only one in every two people eventually diagnosed with cancer initially goes to a doctor with symptoms that would allow urgent tests.

Deborah Alsina, the charity's chief executive, said it wants the rules for GPs to be "liberalised". She said doctors should be able to send people for cancer tests based on their opinion even if their problems don't tick all the boxes.

Cancer Research UK welcomed the findings but offered a note of caution. Commenting on the report, Cancer Research UK's head of Dr Jodie Moffat said any changes regarding increased testing should be weighed up against the risk of causing unwarranted stress in patients who don't have the disease.

Dr Moffat, added: "Early diagnosis is a vital part of improving survival from cancer. We know that when is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than 90 per cent of patients survive at least five years, compared to less than seven per cent of those diagnosed at the latest stage.

"We're very keen to explore new and innovative ways to improve early diagnosis of cancer, including developing alternative pathways and looking at referral thresholds. And we know that patients are often keen for symptoms to be investigated even when there is a very low risk of cancer.

"However this does need to be balanced in the context of the wider demands this would place on the system and the unnecessary anxiety it could generate in patients who turn out not to have cancer. Reports such as this one are helpful for further adding to the evidence that this is a critical issue."

As well as referring people for suspected cancer, the government's Improving Outcomes strategy allows GPs to access a test called flexible sigmoidoscopy for whose symptoms may not be cancer, but who still require further investigation. But it is unclear how many GPs are making use of these tests in this way.

Explore further: New computer program to help GPs know when to send patients for cancer tests

More information: The report, "Diagnosing Bowel Cancer Early: Right Test, Right Time," is available online:
www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/campa … ime/read-our-report/

Related Stories

New computer program to help GPs know when to send patients for cancer tests

November 5, 2013
New software that estimates the likelihood that someone has cancer based on their symptoms could help GPs decide which patients to send for further tests, according to a study announced at the National Cancer Research Institute ...

Cancer patients diagnosed more quickly

February 5, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The time taken to diagnose some of the more common cancers – from the point when a patient first reports a possible symptom to their general practitioner (GP) – fell in adults by an average of five ...

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 ...

Differences in staging and treatment likely to be behind UK's low bowel cancer survival

April 16, 2013
Incomplete diagnostic investigation and failure to get the best treatment are the most likely reasons why survival for bowel cancer patients is lower in the UK than in other comparable countries, according to new research ...

Study highlights varying cancer survival rates across Europe

December 13, 2013
Cancer survival rates are continuing to improve in England, according to the results from a Europe-wide collaborative project.

Positive result for new DNA blood test for bowel cancer

May 5, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A team of Australian scientists has presented evidence that a new blood test for bowel cancer based on two genes that "leak" into the blood can detect 65 per cent of bowel cancer cases.

Recommended for you

T-cells engineered to outsmart tumors induce clinical responses in relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma

January 16, 2018
WASHINGTON-(Jan. 16, 2018)-Tumors have come up with ingenious strategies that enable them to evade detection and destruction by the immune system. So, a research team that includes Children's National Health System clinician-researchers ...

Researchers identify new treatment target for melanoma

January 16, 2018
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of melanoma. For decades, research has associated female sex and a history of previous ...

More evidence of link between severe gum disease and cancer risk

January 16, 2018
Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by epidemiologists ...

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Dietary fat, changes in fat metabolism may promote prostate cancer metastasis

January 15, 2018
Prostate tumors tend to be what scientists call "indolent" - so slow-growing and self-contained that many affected men die with prostate cancer, not of it. But for the percentage of men whose prostate tumors metastasize, ...

Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018
One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered ...

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.