NICE publishes draft guidelines to improve cancer diagnosis

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published new draft guidelines on when GPs should refer patients for tests for suspected cancer, in a bid to help them spot the signs and symptoms of cancer earlier.

Late diagnosis is a common complaint of cancer patients – particularly those with less common cancers, where the symptoms may mimic much less serious conditions. Some research has suggested that up to 10,000 people a year could be dying in the UK due to late diagnosis. Earlier diagnosis would mean that there are more treatment options and improved survival rates.

GPs have a difficult job in spotting the possible cancer cases amongst the host of less serious, more common conditions which they see on a day to day basis. The average GP sees only eight new cases of cancer a year, but could have 6000-8000 appointments. It is hoped that these new guidelines will help GPs to understand better when to refer patients for tests, avoiding situations where patients repeatedly raise concerns with their GP only to later find out that they have cancer.

The guidelines are open for comment until January, with final guidance expected to be published in May 2015.