New NHS guidelines for spotting cancer early will include clear recommendations for tests and waiting times for specialists referrals, health experts have revealed.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) will have:
- How long people should wait to be seen by a specialist once they have been referred to hospital.
- They range from two weeks to 48 hours or sooner, depending on the patient's symptoms.
- New recommendations about "safety netting" will also advise GPs how and when to review people with a symptom associated with a risk of cancer but who do not meet the usual criteria for referral, to ensure cancer is not missed.
- Nice will also update its information for the public to help people identify possible signs of cancer and encourage them to visit their GP sooner.
The updated guidance is expected to be published in May 2015 following a consultation.
Healthcare professionals will be given more help to spot the early signs of cancer and hopefully save more lives, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said.
The advisory board has published draft guidelines for GPs based on recent evidence about which symptoms "best predict cancer".
Late diagnosis could be costing thousands of lives every year in England and Wales, according to Nice.
In a separate but related move, Lynda Bellingham's son, Michael Peluso, spoke publicly about how he believes her life would have been saved had she had a colonoscopy. The actress died from colon cancer last month.
The 31-year-old told the Mirror: "She was a massive champion for getting a colonoscopy. It would have saved her life.
"They missed it so much. She had two stool tests, a blood test and they never found it. She was carrying cancer for 18 months before she discovered she had it."
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A private hospital in Surrey says it is "reviewing the notes" of any cancer patients treated by a former consultant urologist after he was dismissed.
Spire Gatwick Park Hospital suspended Paul Miller in December last year. This was only one of the hospitals where he worked.
1,200 cancer patients have been assessed over fears they may have been mistreated by a former consultant urologist, Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has said.
All of the bladder and prostrate cancer patients were seen by consultant urologist Paul Miller between 2006 and 2012.
A review of their care by the Royal College of Surgeons found that 27 of the patients "came to harm" as a result of the treatment they received.
A small number of others received care that "fell below the standards we would expect" but were not harmed as a consequence, a statement said.
Mr Miller was dismissed from the Trust and has been banned from treating cancer patients pending an investigation by the General Medical Council.
- Concerned East Surrey Hospital patients can call a helpline on 0808 168 7754 Monday to Friday, between 11am and 7pm.
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For cancer survivor Greig Trout, beating the disease twice has been an inspiration.
He is now trying to inspire other sufferers with his video diary chronicling the '101 things to do when you survive'.
Unfortunately for many other patients, cancer is not caught early enough and 160,000 people still die from the disease each year in the UK.
Experts say better diagnosis rates have the potential to save thousands of lives, as well as saving money on expensive treatment for late-stage cancers.
ITV News reporter Sascha Williams reports.
It is "vital" people check with their GPs as soon as something unusual happens to their bodies if they want the best chance to beat cancer, according to a healthy charity.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK explained:
Diagnosing cancer at its earliest stages is crucial to give patients the best chance of survival.
There are a number of reasons why cancer may be diagnosed at an advanced stage.
For some cancers, such as pancreatic, symptoms are often only noticeable once the tumour has already started to spread. But for many others there are chances for the cancer to be picked up earlier.
It's vital that people are aware of their body and if they notice anything unusual for them they should visit their GP. And GPs play a critical role of course, knowing when symptoms need to be investigated and referring patients promptly for tests.
If four of the most common cancers - colon, rectal, lung and ovarian - were diagnosed early, it could save the NHS £44 million in treatment costs ever year, a report has found.
According to Cancer Research UK's report, Incisive Health:
- Early diagnosis in those cancers would benefit at least 11,000 patients.
- Diagnosis figures for seven cancers in England - breast, colorectal (bowel), lung, melanoma (skin), Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, ovarian and prostate - showed that 46% were detected at a late stage in 2012.
- Breast cancer had the best diagnosis rate - 83% of cases of were identified early, highlighting the benefits of national screening.