There have been several articles in the news recently relating to delays in diagnosing Cancer.
Today the BBC have featured a news item relating to delays in diagnosing Bone Cancers. Experts are calling for GPs to speed up referrals for x-rays in patients suspected of having Bone Cancer. It has also been highlighted that survival rates for Bone Cancer have remained unchanged for 25 years. The disease is more common in those under the age of 24 and the symptoms are often mistaken for growing pains, leading to a delay in diagnosis.
Just under three weeks ago the BBC also reported that too many Cancers are being diagnosed in Accident and Emergency Departments. Shortly after this story ran I received a Cancer Claim enquiry from a new client who had been suffering from symptoms of abdominal pain, passing blood and weight loss. She visited her GP on many occasions and reported the symptoms. She even asked directly if she could have Cancer. The GP was dismissive and said she was too young to have Cancer. She was referred to a Gynaecologist for investigations, but not a Gastroenterologist or Bowel specialist. Treatment provided by the Gynaecologist did not cure the symptoms and in the end she was in so much pain that she presented to A& E, here she was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer.
I also recently attended a seminar given by Professor Richard Grundy, Professor of Paediatric Neuro-oncology and Cancer biology at the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre in Nottingham. During his presentation he highlighted that Cancerous Brain Tumours in children often take a long time to diagnose as the symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions. He spoke about the work of Head Smart, which is a campaign which aims to reduce the time it takes to diagnose children and young people with Brain Tumours in the UK. Children in the UK with a Brain Tumour may take up to three times longer to be diagnosed than children in other countries such as the United States. Reducing the time to diagnosis should reduce the long-term disability that many children and young people diagnosed with a Brain Tumour currently experience. More information about this campaign can be found at www.headsmart.org.uk.
The common theme in these news items and in this presentation is that delays in diagnosing Cancer affect the treatment prospects, options and long term survival rates. Treatment options for the various Cancers are getting better and survival rates have improved over the years. However it is important that further work is done to ensure that Cancer is considered as a potential diagnosis and investigated as a matter of urgency where appropriate. In my work I see all too often situations where patients have duly reported symptoms to their GP which are suggestive of some type of Cancer, yet there is a failure to properly consider and investigate this as a potential diagnosis. These delays can obviously have devastating effects on a patient's prognosis.
Hopefully the fact that the issue of delays in diagnosis is hitting the headlines alongside campaigns like Head Smart will go some away to reduce these delays in the future.
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