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Independents' Day

'Be wary over abdominal pains'

Alert over missed Ca diagnoses

Patients admitted as emergencies with colorectal cancer have usually reported symptoms to their GP 'well beforehand', a new study reports.

The researchers warned their study indicated many emergencies were preventable – and urged GPs to consider cancer in all patients with unexplained abdominal pain.

Weight loss, diarrhoea and abdominal pain all independently predicted colorectal cancer, with odds ratios of 3.4, 3.4 and 6.2 respectively.

The Department of Health announced last week it was drawing up a new NHS cancer plan, which a spokesperson

said would step up pressure to improve colorectal cancer


Earlier this year, former NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp warned the number of cancers missed by GPs was 'too high' and should be halved.

In the new study, nearly two-thirds of patients admitted to hospital for emergency colorectal cancer surgery had seen their GP with common cancer symptoms at least 30 days before admission.

Some 39 of 62 patients had reported at least one of five symptoms – diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding or loss of weight.

The researchers said they had recently completed an initial pilot of a new diagnostic

algorithm for colorectal cancer, based on their results, with plans to trial it more widely.

Dr William Hamilton, a senior clinical research fellow at the University of Bristol, said: 'If the risk of colorectal cancer is deemed high enough to warrant referral, then patients with abdominal pain should receive the highest priority in investigation, as they are most at risk of developing a surgical complication.'

Dr Nick Brown, cancer lead for Kennet and North Wiltshire PCT and a GP in Chippenham, Wiltshire, said: 'When you're dealing with statistics, there will always be rare occasions when unfortunately GPs sit on the wrong side and get decisions wrong.'

The results, published online by Family Practice, were drawn from the entire primary care record for practices in Exeter PCT, from data on 349 patients from two years up to 30 days before diagnosis.

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