GP direct access to diagnostics boosts early cancer detection five-fold

GPs with direct access to endoscopy can improve early diagnosis rates of bowel cancer five-fold, a small study in a London hospital has found.

Consultation: direct GP access to cancer scans boosts early diagnosis
Consultation: direct GP access to cancer scans boosts early diagnosis

The programme aimed to improve early cancer diagnosis for patients with symptoms that do not fit the two-week wait (TWW) pathway for colorectal cancer.

The scheme was tested at Homerton University Hospital and presented at the Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast.

GPs could directly book flexible sigmoidoscopy for patients aged 18-55 with rectal bleeding, and colonoscopy for patients ages 40-70 with bowel habit changes.

Better survival

Since the scheme began in 2012, 564 patients have undergone endoscopy. Only seven have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer as a result, but four of these were diagnosed at an early stage, boosting their chances of survival.

‘More than 50% of the cancers detected were Stage 1 compared to 9% nationally,’ the researchers wrote.

The team said that non-urgent referrals had to be ‘streamlined’ for cancer diagnosis to be sped up.

‘If this model of care had been available across the 3.2m population of London Cancer we might have reduced diagnostic delays and improved the stage at diagnosis for 81 young patients with colorectal cancer,’ they added. London Cancer is  a partnership of hospitals and research centres aiming to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.

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