GPs urged to take more structured approach to GI cancer diagnosis

GPs are the 'frontline troops in gastrointestinal (GI) cancer diagnosis' and should take a more structured approach to make sure patients with persistent symptoms receive follow-up appointments, according to a GP-led campaign.

Sloan Medical Centre practice manager Lana Beatson (left) and GPSI Dr Marian Sloan inside the inflatable colon
Sloan Medical Centre practice manager Lana Beatson (left) and GPSI Dr Marian Sloan inside the inflatable colon

The Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology (PCSG) said it is ‘time to admit a national problem – and do something about it’ to deal with gastrointestinal cancer, as UK survival rates consistently trail behind comparative European countries.

The society calls for ‘safety netting’ - ensuring that follow up appointments are scheduled for anyone with persistent and possibly suspicious symptoms - and encouragement and support for GPs to have frank and honest communications with patients.

GPs should use a more frank and honest tone with patients so they fully understand their potential cancer risk, guidance from the group suggests.

The advice comes after updated NICE guidance lowered the recommended risk threshold at which GPs should refer patients with suspected cancer to hospital

GP cancer referrals

The society launched the Think GI Cancer campaign on Friday, supported by a 25ft inflatable colon, which the group is offering out to GPs to use as an educational tool at their practice.

‘We need doctors to be absolutely clear with patients about why they are being referred for suspected cancer, while at the same time attempting to reassure them that their likelihood of cancer is relatively low,’ said Professor Roger Jones, GP and PCSG president.

With around a quarter of UK cancers still diagnosed only in casualty departments, ‘it is only too obvious that many patients are not consulting their GPs early enough’ and that ‘GPs themselves are not always thinking of the possibility of a cancer diagnosis’, the group added.

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