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Proximity of GP affects cancer prognosis

The nearer cancer patients live to their GP surgery, the better their prognosis, a new study shows.

Researchers looked at 110,097 cancer cases in northern England and found that late stage diagnosis of breast and colorectal cancer and death from prostate cancer were associated with longer travel times to patients' GPs.

However the study, published early online in the European Journal of Cancer, found that travel times to hospital had no impact on outcomes, allaying concerns over the recent redistribution of cancer services towards larger centres.

The probability of late-stage detection of breast and colorectal cancer increased by about 1% for every minute of car travel time from a GP.

Study author Dr Robin Haynes, environmental sciences reader at the University of East Anglia, said the findings suggested that ‘patients, once advised of the possibility of a life-threatening illness, make every effort to attend appointments'.

Dr William Hamilton, Exeter GP and clinical lecturer at the University of Bristol, said: ‘It's possible people who live many miles from surgery are different one way or another. Who's going to look after their sheep while they are ill, for instance?'

And Dr Pawan Randev, Ealing PCT cancer lead, said: ‘I can't see that anything can be done about this.'

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