Thousands of people are being diagnosed with late-stage cancer in A&E due to GPs repeatedly misreading symptoms at earlier stages, according to a new study.
Cancer Research UK data shows that 22 per cent of people diagnosed with cancer each year are an emergency case.
The new study, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) analysed 2010 data from 4,637 people diagnosed in A&E This included 31 per cent of breast cancer patients, 41 per cent of bowel cancer patients and 37 per cent of prostate cancer patients.
Of the group that did see their GP with symptoms, 41 per cent had sought help three or more times - while 59 per cent had seen their GP once or twice.
The report found that patients in A&E diagnosed with common cancers, such as breast cancer, who had visited their GP three times or more, may be presenting with atypical symptoms.
Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said the findings were "extremely concerning", adding: "We speak to women and men who tell us how incredibly distressing it is not to be taken seriously when they've found a possible symptom.
"We have found almost a third (31 per cent) of people with incurable secondary breast cancer do not feel healthcare professionals listened to their concerns about having the disease before being diagnosed.
"And nearly a 10th (8 per cent) are diagnosed in A&E rather than a breast clinic, indicating 'red flag' symptoms for incurable breast cancer are not being acted on appropriately."
Ian Cohen, a clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon, said: “These figures are truly shocking and seem to indicate a crisis in the quality of GP care. This crisis may well be due to the unrelenting pressure on GPs and their inability to spend appropriate time with their patients. Whatever the reason there are clearly many missed opportunities to identify a patient with cancer much earlier than appears to be the case , which in turn is increasing the pressure on A&E services and the NHS generally. This is all part of a perfect storm that does not look like it will get any better soon.”