Lung cancer audit will boost early diagnosis

GPs should start auditing lung cancer diagnoses to improve early detection of the disease in primary care, say campaigners.

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) says records of the patterns of presentation for lung cancer could boost survival rates.

UK lung cancer patients have one of the lowest survival rates in Europe, with five-year survival at 8.4 per cent in Scotland and 8.2 per cent in England.

By contrast, in Iceland 16.8 per cent of lung cancer patients are alive five years after their diagnosis.

The UKLCC has now developed a 12-step plan it believes can reverse this trend.

In primary care, 'significant events audits', which track how many times patients seek advice before a diagnosis is made can help pick out common patterns and tell-tale signs, said Dr Steve Holmes, chairman of the General Practice Airways Group and member of UKLCC.

One difficulty can be getting patients to present early; the average delay before a patient presents to primary care is seven months.

'What we're looking for is to empower patients to come in if they are getting a persistent cough, to see their practitioner and highlight concerns,' he said.

One way of doing this would be to ask patients to fill in questionnaires in GP waiting rooms, to assess risk, says the UKLCC.

GPs also need to ensure rapid referral of patients to X-ray to ensure they receive an early diagnosis.

'They need to start to put pressure on X-ray providers to give results quickly,' added Dr Holmes.

However, Dr John Haughney, a GP in Glasgow and president of the International Primary Care Respiratory Group, was uncertain why the UK lagged behind Europe in lung cancer survival. 'I don't think it's because UK GPs are any worse at sending people on (to secondary care),' he said.

Neither is it due to a lack of action from consultants or sufficient therapies, he added.

The UKLCC also wants the government to introduce further national tobacco strategies.

UKLCC proposals

  • Audit of lung cancer diagnosis trends in primary care.
  • Quicker access to diagnostics such as X-rays.
  • Lung cancer screening pilot.
  • Improve public awareness and understanding to increase early presentation.
  • Rapid communications on diagnoses from secondary care to primary care.

UKLCC report

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