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Public want more cancer investigation

Tuesday January 14th, 2014

Most people in the UK would prefer much more investigation of possible cancer symptoms than the country's National Health Service offers, according to research published today.

The findings cast new light on claims that UK cancer death rates are worse than other countries because people seek diagnosis late.

Researchers found that 88% of people would want more investigations even if symptoms had a "low risk" of cancer of less than 1%.

The research, published in Lancet Oncology, involved some 3,649 participants from 26 general practices in urban, rural, wealthy and poor parts of England. Volunteers were asked to think about a range of different symptoms - leading to nearly 7,000 different possibilities being analysed.

The project involved the universities of Bristol and Cambridge and Exeter University Medical School.

Researchers said participants mostly wanted more investigations than they would get on the NHS for low-risk symptoms.

Researcher Dr Jonathan Banks, from Bristol University, said: "This large study provides a clear and comprehensive account of public preference for investigation for cancer. It shows for the first time that there's a strong preference for diagnostic cancer testing, even if the risk is very low.

"This desire far exceeds what is actually being offered by the NHS and we hope the findings can help policy makers and doctors in shaping guidelines and practice."

Fellow researcher Professor Willie Hamilton, from Exeter, said: One main reason for the UK's poor performance on cancer is that fewer patients with symptoms obtain an early diagnosis. Currently the NHS isn't offering cancer diagnostic testing at the level patients requested in this study.

"How this gap can be narrowed is a critical and compelling decision for the NHS as a whole."

* The UK's ageing population has led to the number of new people diagnosed with cancer every year reaching a third of a million, it was announced today.

In ten years the annual number of diagnoses has increased by nearly 50,000, reaching 331,487 by 2011, according to the Cancer Research UK analysis.

Increased drinking of alcohol and growing girths have also contributed to the problem, experts say.

The chances of being diagnosed with cancer have now increased by about a third in 36 years, according to the analysis.

By 2011 some 0.4% of people had been diagnosed with cancer. This compared with 0.295% in 1975.

Cancer Research UK said the chances of surviving a decade after diagnosis has also doubled - reaching 46% of patients by 2007.

Charity chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: "These figures reinforce the vital need for more research to better prevent, treat and cure cancer. As the population ages, more people than ever before will be told: ‘you have cancer’.

"Research is the only way we’ll be able to reduce the devastating impact of the disease."

Preferences for cancer investigation: a vignette-based study of primary-care attendees. Lancet Oncology 14 January 2014

Tags: Cancer | NHS | UK News

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