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Primary care cancer diagnosis increases survival rates

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Cancer diagnosis in primary care reduces mortality Cancer diagnosis in primary care reduces mortality

People diagnosed with cancer in primary care are more likely to survive more than a year than if they are diagnosed in emergency settings, a review published in BMJ Open has found.

The review, supported by Cancer Research UK, looked at 22 studies of people who had not previously had cancer, with over 687,000 cases of bowel and lung cancer between 2006 and 2010. It found that 38% of lung cancers and 25% of bowel cancers were diagnosed in emergency settings. The researchers highlighted this as an area of concern, as just 11% of lung cancer cases diagnosed in an emergency situation survived for at least a year, compared to 42% of those who were diagnosed in primary care. For bowel cancer patients, 83% who were diagnosed in primary care survived compared to 49% of those diagnosed in emergency care.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK said: 'We need a better understanding of why some people are having their cancer diagnosis made via an emergency admission. This is important because we know that their survival chances are lower if people are diagnosed this way. This interesting review sheds some light on the factors that could be involved. We're now funding further research on the subject and calling on the government to ensure more cancers are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage because this can make such a difference for patients.'

The researchers highlighted the fact that patients need to be made aware of the importance of recognising early symptoms of cancer and attending general practice appointments to address possible signs of cancer.

The review's lead author, Dr Liz Mitchell senior research fellow, at the Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, said: 'It may be that some patients don't go to their GP about early cancer symptoms – especially if they live alone – or they become ill very quickly, leading to an emergency diagnosis in hospital. But our review shows that other factors such as a person's age and gender might also have an influence. Knowing more about these influences could help us to find ways of ensuring that more cancers are spotted earlier, when patients often have a better chance of survival.'

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