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GPs in England failing to urgently refer patients with ‘red flag’ signs of cancer

GPs are failing to urgently refer patients with “red flag” signs of suspected cancer to a specialist, research suggests.

Six out of 10 patients in England with key symptoms indicating possible cancer did not receive an urgent referral for specialist assessment within two weeks, as recommended in clinical guidelines, according to a new study.

Nearly 4% of these patients were subsequently diagnosed with cancer within the next 12 months. The findings were published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety.

In the study, researchers analysed records from almost 49,000 patients who consulted their GP with one of the warning signs for cancer that should warrant referral under clinical guidelines. Of the 29,045 patients not referred, 1,047 developed cancer within a year (3.6%).

Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is crucial to survival chances. Every four-week delay in cancer treatment increases the risk of death by 10%.

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Source: The Guardian, 5 October 2021

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