The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has this month issued a new guideline named “Suspected cancer: recognition and referral” to offer advice on the recognition of and referral for suspected cancer in children, young people and adults.

As NICE states, “Cancer has an enormous impact, both in terms of the number of people affected by it and the individual impact it has on people with cancer and those close to them. More than 300,000 new cancers (excluding skin cancers) are diagnosed annually in the UK, across over 200 different cancer types. Each of these cancer types has different presenting features, though they sometimes overlap. Approximately one third of the population will develop a cancer in their lifetime.”

The first opportunity to identify people with potential cancer and in need of referral often occurs in primary care such as a GP surgery as this is where people first present with symptoms.

The new recommendations are intended to assist primary care providers in recognising suspected cancer and making referrals. The recommendations are organised by symptoms and investigation findings, as well as by the site of suspected cancer to make diagnosis and appropriate referral easier.

The guideline recommends that it is clearly explained to people that most will not be diagnosed with cancer and that alternative diagnoses are discussed.

The guideline can also be used by people to assist in which symptoms to look out for and it actively encourages people to raise their concerns regarding any symptoms.

It is hoped that the new guideline will put people in contact with cancer specialist treatment teams a lot faster and enable referral directly to diagnostic tests by the primary care providers, to speed up the process and free up specialist cancer experts.

In addition to improving the effective cancer referral process the guideline aims to help people understand what to expect if they have symptoms that may suggest cancer.

Sadly too often patients are only referred to specialist cancer treatment teams when the cancer is at an advanced stage meaning that many patients are denied the opportunity of effective lifesaving treatment at an early stage.

It is hoped the new guideline will improve cancer diagnosis and referral to improve the prospects of successful treatment for many more people.

If you suspect that you or a member of your family has suffered as a result of a delayed diagnosis of cancer please call Blythe Liggins for a consultation with a specialist solicitor.

Caption: Adam Lloyd, Solicitor in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Department

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