Computer tool alerts GPs to patients' cancer risk

A computer program that predicts a patient's cancer risk based on their symptoms could help GPs diagnose the disease earlier and improve survival rates.

The software is partly based on a tool developed by Exeter GP Professor Willie Hamilton, pictured (Photo: National Cancer Research Institute)
The software is partly based on a tool developed by Exeter GP Professor Willie Hamilton, pictured (Photo: National Cancer Research Institute)

The software, which automatically alerts GPs when symptoms suggest a risk of cancer, is being tested by GP practices in England and Wales and could be rolled out to all practice computer systems.

GPs involved in the project said it could save lives by identifying cancer earlier.

The Electronic Cancer Decision Support (eCDS) program scans information entered into the patient record during a consultation and matches symptoms to known risk factors such as smoking status.

It can automatically alert GPs when it detects a combination of symptoms known to be associated with cancer, and can help the GP decide whether further investigation is needed.

The tool can estimate the risk of oesophago-gastric, lung, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

Findings from a study of the new tool were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute’s conference on Tuesday.

The tool is based on work by academic GP Professor Julia Hippsley-Cox, who developed the QCancer risk calculator, and Exeter GP Professor Willie Hamilton’s risk assessment tool.

Professor Hamilton said the program would be used alongside patient notes.

He said: ‘What’s really useful is if, for example, a patient comes to see me with one symptom such as nausea or sickness. Then three weeks later they come back and say they’ve had trouble swallowing.

'The computer will automatically ping up with an alert to say their risk of oesophageal cancer is over 7%, which will alert me to refer the patient for tests.’

The tool was developed by Macmillan Cancer Support with funding from the DH.

Dr Rosie Loftus, lead GP adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘When you’ve only got around 10 minutes with each patient, it’s vital that you ask the right questions and are able to quickly calculate someone’s risk in order to facilitate an early referral.

'Macmillan hopes that this tool will support GPs to identify the symptoms of cancer and help to improve cancer survival rates.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

LMCs demand renegotiation of COVID-19 enhanced service deal

LMCs demand renegotiation of COVID-19 enhanced service deal

LMCs have called for a renegotiation of funding for the COVID-19 vaccination enhanced...

LMCs demand ballot of profession on PCN DES ahead of next contract talks

LMCs demand ballot of profession on PCN DES ahead of next contract talks

LMCs have demanded a ballot of GPs on the primary care network (PCN) DES before BMA...

Lack of support left locums at physical and financial risk in pandemic, say LMCs

Lack of support left locums at physical and financial risk in pandemic, say LMCs

Locum GPs have faced significant physical and financial risk because of a lack of...

LMCs demand NHS England apology over ‘abhorrent' claims about general practice

LMCs demand NHS England apology over ‘abhorrent' claims about general practice

LMCs have called on NHS England to apologise for ‘abhorrent and insulting’ suggestions...

CCGs to be stripped of commissioning role under reforms backed by NHS England

CCGs to be stripped of commissioning role under reforms backed by NHS England

CCGs could be stripped of their commissioning role under plans set out by NHS England,...

Shielding advice updated to reflect return to tiered system on 2 December

Shielding advice updated to reflect return to tiered system on 2 December

The government has updated its guidance for patients on the shielding list to reflect...