GP visits up 63% after cancer awareness campaign

Campaigns to increase public awareness of cancer warning signs led to a large rise in GP visits, a study has found.

GP consultation: cancer campaign increased GP visits (Photo: JH Lancy)
GP consultation: cancer campaign increased GP visits (Photo: JH Lancy)

GP appointments for lung cancer symptoms rose by 63% and for bowel cancer symptoms by 29% after a public health campaign.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign informed the public about cancer ‘red flags’, such a persistent cough being a lung cancer symptom and blood in poo being a sign of bowel cancer.

The Cancer Research UK study looked at electronic GP records from 355 practices for bowel cancer and 486 for lung cancer, and compared visits from 2012 when the campaign was running to the previous year.

More GP visits

More people aged between 50-59 visited the GP for symptoms of both cancers. The bowel cancer campaign had a greater effect on men, with 37% more men visiting their GP, compared to 22% for women.

People who were most deprived were also more likely to see their GP for bowel cancer symptoms, with an increase of 72% reported in the British Journal of Cancer study.

‘Campaigns like Be Clear on Cancer have improved the understanding of signs and symptoms and encouraged people to go to their GP when they spot them,’ said Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis.

‘We also need to ensure doctors can effectively interpret the symptoms and then refer patients on as quickly as possible.’

The RCGP’s cancer lead, Dr Richard Roope, has called for GPs to encourage patients to make an appointment for warning signs of cancer, to allay fears of wasting GPs’ time.

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