NICE publishes new cancer guidelines for GPs

The updated guideline uses a new approach which focuses on the symptoms that a patient might experience . The guidelines set out clear tables linking signs and symptoms to possible cancers and includes simple recommendations about which tests to perform and the type of referral to specialist services that should be made.

NICE has predicted that around 5,000 lives could be saved each year as GPs will now consider possibility of cancer sooner and refer people for tests quicker. This in turn will mean more people receive an early diagnosis and subsequently, more cancers could be cured.

Professor Mark Baker, clinical practice director at NICE, said: “The best way to successfully treat cancer is to make an early diagnosis. The sooner the disease is identified, the more likely treatment is to be effective. Earlier diagnoses have the potential to save thousands of lives each year.This guideline uniquely amongst guidelines of this type presents the evidence on the way that patients present to their GPs. It reflects real life and we expect it to have a major impact on the success rate for cancer in England.”

Professor Willie Hamilton, a GP and Professor of Primary Care Diagnostics at the University of Exeter who helped to develop the updated guideline, said: “This guideline is about getting the right patients to the right tests at the right time. Traditionally, GPs have always had some tests available such as blood tests, X-rays and some scans. This guidance expands this by bringing some tests that have been traditionally thought to be hospital tests under the wing of GPs. It will open the door for smarter testing so that people with cancer will receive their diagnosis much earlier. There is no doubt in my mind that this guideline will help to save lives.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, added: “These new guidelines for suspected cancers will give GPs more freedom to quickly refer patients with worrying symptoms – crucial for a disease that can be hard for GPs to spot in primary care. This will mean diagnosing more cancers earlier, at a stage when treatment is most likely to be effective, better for patients and ultimately increasing survival.”

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