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Bowel cancer could be detected earlier by GPs

Study shows patients have symptoms a year before emergency bowel cancer diagnosis.
GP

One in five bowel cancer patients have at least one symptom a year before an emergency diagnosis, according to research, indicating opportunities to discover the disease earlier.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that 17% of colon cancer patients and almost a quarter of rectal cancer patients diagnosed as an emergency had so-called red flag symptoms.

The authors of the study called for ways to help GPs diagnose bowel cancer at an early stage, and suggested that a specifically-trained nurse could support GPs during the initial diagnostic phases and subsequent follow-up visits.

Red flag symptoms are more common in patients who are diagnosed via non-emergency routes, but most patients, regardless of how they were diagnosed, visited their doctor a year before their diagnosis, the study stated.

National Colorectal Cancer Nurses Network chair Claire Taylor said: those who present as an emergency

One in five bowel cancer patients have at least one symptom a year before an emergency diagnosis, according to research, indicating opportunities to discover the disease earlier.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, showed that 17% of colon cancer patients and almost a quarter of rectal cancer patients diagnosed as an emergency had so-called red flag symptoms.

The authors of the study called for ways to help GPs diagnose bowel cancer at an early stage, and suggested that a specifically-trained nurse could support GPs during the initial diagnostic phases and subsequent follow-up visits.

Red flag symptoms are more common in patients who are diagnosed via non-emergency routes, but most patients, regardless of how they were diagnosed, visited their doctor a year before their diagnosis, the study stated.

National Colorectal Cancer Nurses Network chair Claire Taylor said: ‘those who present as an emergency are more likely to have advanced disease. Also they are likely to be less well by the time they have treatment, and have a higher likelihood of complication and even death after surgery.

‘This study shows we are definitely missing something. GPs often have little time for a detailed assessment. Continuity with GPs is key so they can understand their patient’s symptoms. It is important that patients feel empowered and informed. Health promotion is vital and possibly practice nurses could be part of this.’

The University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study looked at National Cancer Registry data that was linked to the GP data for 1,606 patients across more than 200 practices.

The research focused on patient data for the five years leading up to the cancer diagnosis.


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