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How important is weight loss as cancer indicator?

Tuesday April 10th, 2018

Unexplained weight loss is a hugely significant predictor of cancer risk, researchers say today.

In men over 60, about one in seven of those with this problem are found to have some form of cancer, according to the analysis in the British Journal of General Practice.

The findings come after the government promised to test “one-stop” cancer clinics that will provide additional testing for patients with non-specific symptoms.

The researchers, led by Brian Nicholson, of Oxford University, analysed 25 studies of which 23 used primary care records.

Overall for all patients, they found that weight loss had a 7.1% positive predictive value of disease for all cancer sites.

A second analysis in the same journal studies the link between abdominal symptoms and cancer risk.

Researchers found that three or more symptoms were associated with a 14 times increased likelihood of cancer diagnosis. Upper abdominal pain and rectal bleeding were linked to a 64 times increased likelihood.

Dr Richard Roope, Royal College of GPs clinical lead for cancer, said: “Currently there are no clinical guidelines to support GPs and their teams in how to respond to or investigate patients who present with weight loss, without other symptoms, in the cancer setting.

“These important findings present strong evidence of the correlation between significant unexplained weight loss and many cancers, and should certainly be taken on board as clinical guidelines for GPs and healthcare professionals are updated and developed.

“We agree with the researchers’ recommendations that GPs need better access to diagnostic tools in the community across the UK so that we can appropriately refer patients to either rule out or confirm a diagnosis of cancer, as currently our access is amongst the lowest in Europe.

“We hope the pilot of ‘one stop’ cancer clinics, announced last week by NHS England, in addition to the roll out of the Faster Diagnosis Standard programme, will be a step to achieving this across the country.”

Weight loss as a predictor of cancer in primary care: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJGP 10 April 2018

Link: http://bjgp.org/content/early/2018/04/09/bjgp18X695801

Tags: Cancer | NHS | UK News

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