GPs should monitor patients with risk of bowel cancer

GPs should be looking for early colorectal cancer in at-risk patients, experts have said.

At the annual meeting of the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology in London last week, Dr Patrick Ward-Booth, a GP endoscopist in Essex, said:  

‘It isn’t just a matter of waiting for a screening programme to come along and pick up cases.’  

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease, a positive family history, polyps or previous cancer surgery should be on a surveillance programme.  

Compiling a database of these patients from existing Read codes could allow GPs to check that proper monitoring of these patients is taking place.  

‘You could just add another set of Read codes,’ he said. ‘It would be a small number of patients in each practice.’  

Last month, the Healthcare Commission warned that roll-out of the national bowel cancer screening programme had been hampered by colonoscopy waiting times (GP, 1 September). 

Warning signs  

Early signs of colorectal cancer:  

Changes in bowel habit.  

Persistent rectal bleeding. 

Unexplained anaemia.  

Obstructive-like pain.  

Weight loss. 

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