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More cancers diagnosed via GP urgent referrals as emergency diagnoses fall

More cancers are being detected as a result of GPs referring patients for urgent investigations via the two-week wait pathway, while fewer are being diagnosed as emergencies, cancer experts say.

Their findings – due to be presented at the Public Health England annual conference today – are taken from a preliminary analysis of the Routes to Diagnosis registry and cover patients diagnosed with cancer from 2006 to 2013.

Overall they show that 20% cancers were diagnosed as an emergency in 2013, compared with almost 25% in 2006.

Meanwhile for lung cancer specifically, the proportion diagnosed through the GP two-week wait referral route has gone up from 22% to 28% – while the rate of diagnoses made through emergency presentation fell from 39% to 35%.

PHE said the Government’s flagship Be Clear on Cancer publicity campaigns – which included the ‘three-week cough’ campaign encouraging people to go to their GP if they had a cough last for three weeks or longer – may have contributed to the improvements.

However, there was no apparent change in the trend for either overall or lung-cancer specific emergency diagnoses since the national campaigns were introduced in 2012, while the increase in two-week wait diagnoses for lung cancer levelled off between 2012 and 2013.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said the findings were ‘really encouraging’.

She said: ‘When cancer is caught early, we have more options for treatments and a far better chance of beating the disease.’

However, she added that there was still ‘unacceptable’ variation and too many people were still being diagnosed as an emergency in hospital, and that the Government’s new cancer strategy ‘makes clear recommendations for how we can improve England’s cancer survival and patients’ experience’.

National Cancer Intelligence Network - Routes to Diagnosis 2006-2013, preliminary results

Readers' comments (3)

  • Vinci Ho

    If these figures are believable , this still does not give any credit to any politician . The whole push with 2WR was a big pilot to show the potentials of general practice as long as the adequacy of funding is in place e.g. fast track imaging/scanning, more GPs , more radiologists , more endoscopists etc . But the bill is a heavy one and again the question is ' how much is the government seriously willing to invest to reach the objective?' There is no ifs and no buts as far as this is concerned......

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  • Usual "spin" for you. Did 7 years of cancer data and all the emergency cancer diagnosis were either subsidiary to an appropriate admission or patient opted to go to A/E due to bleeding/calamity etc. Other interesting points were repeated DNA's or avoidance of GP when family suggested attendance and best of the lot was 2WW referal not quick enough!

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  • Very encouraging report. I think we should work together to beat cancer but more investment is needed.

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