GPs should instigate blood cancer investigation for all patients who are displaying one or more symptoms, a cross-party group of MPs has said.
This is a key recommendation in the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer’s report presented to Parliament today.
The group found that ‘for speeding up the diagnosis of blood cancer specifically, some clinicians felt that a change in approach was required’.
The report said: ‘GPs should undertake a simple blood test for people presenting with one or more blood cancer symptoms.’
It also said: ‘Screening people with low-level symptoms, or no symptoms at all, is an accepted medical practice in other cancers, – for example, breast cancer – yet there was often no similar approach to testing for a blood cancer, despite the fact that this diagnosis can often be made with just a simple blood test.’
The group, which was set up to promote awareness of the disease, also called for GPs to receive better training in recognising symptoms of the ‘hidden’ cancer.
And they said GPs should be required to undertake a ‘significant event analysis’ for any patient diagnosed with cancer as a result of an emergency admission.
Their report claimed ‘complex’ symptoms, such as ‘back pain or tiredness’, are ‘often misunderstood or misdiagnosed’.
The report said: ‘Earlier diagnosis would improve patient outcomes for many blood cancers, including myeloma, several types of highgrade or aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphomas, such as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and a range of T-cell lymphomas.’
It said existing barriers to early blood cancer diagnosis included ‘social and cultural barriers to attending a GP clinic, the limited time GPs have in a consultation to explore generic symptoms, and patients misreading or under-reporting symptoms’.
But RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that ‘each type of blood cancer can present in a varied way, and GPs will base their decisions around what diagnostic testing is most appropriate on the symptoms being displayed by, and the unique circumstances potentially affecting, the patient in front of us’.
She added: ‘Any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.
‘What is certainly needed for GPs to continue doing a good job at identifying any cancers in a timely way, is better access to diagnostic tools in the community, so that we can appropriately investigate and refer patients as well as we can.’
It comes as Public Health England published data showing a significant increase in cancer diagnoses reached via the GP two-week wait referral path over the past 10 years, while A&E diagnoses fell.