GP two-week cancer referrals boost treatment success rate

Urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer lead to more patients receiving potentially life-saving surgery, a report has found.

Breast cancer scan: early GP referrals for cancer boost treatment success (Photo: iStock)
Breast cancer scan: early GP referrals for cancer boost treatment success (Photo: iStock)

Breast cancer patients were four times more likely to have surgery – considered a major factor in survival – if their GP had referred them via the two-week wait (TWW) pathway.

Only 20% of patients whose breast cancer was diagnosed in an emergency situation in hospital received surgery, compared to 80% who were referred on TWW.

Patients with kidney cancer saw a similar difference, with 30% having surgery after an emergency presentation and 70% if seen after a TWW referral.

The findings come from the Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network and Cancer Research UK report into routes of diagnosis, which was launched at Cancer Outcomes Conference in Belfast. 

Advanced cancer

Nineteen of the 20 cancers studied showed improvement in patients receiving surgery when referred by a GP, the report found, where cancer of the larynx showed that both diagnosis routes led to similar surgery outcomes.

This may be because emergency-route cancers are at a more advanced stage and are therefore less treatable with surgery, the report states.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said the research reinforced the need for early diagnosis.

‘Surgery is a life saving treatment for tens of thousands of cancer patients every year, and giving more patients the opportunity to get surgery is vital,’ she said.

‘Knowing more about when, where and how patients are diagnosed should help us overcome barriers and better plan services to improve cancer survival and patient experience.’

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