-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Diagnosing cancer is more
difficult in certain groups of patients, according to a British
Researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 41,000
patients with 24 types of cancer who were treated in 158 hospitals
across England. They found that 77 percent of those who saw their
family doctor about suspicious symptoms were referred to a hospital
after only one or two consultations.
However, the study found that women, young people, non-white
patients and patients with less common cancers were more likely to
see their family doctor three or more times before they were
referred to a hospital.
The researchers identified large differences in the promptness
of family doctors in England to diagnose different types of cancer.
Patients with symptoms of multiple myeloma, lung and pancreatic
cancer required many more consultations with their family doctor
before they were referred to a hospital, compared to patients with
more common cancers such as breast, melanoma and testicular.
For example, almost 51 percent of patients with the blood cancer
multiple myeloma required multiple visits to their family doctor
before referral, compared with less than 8 percent of breast cancer
Differences in the nature and characteristics of symptoms may
explain why certain cancers are more difficult to diagnose, the
researchers said. For example, multiple myeloma is especially
difficult to diagnose because it mimics other conditions, while a
breast lump may readily suggest cancer, the authors said.
They also said that doctors may be less likely to consider
cancer in younger patients and may have communication difficulties
with patients from different ethnic groups, which may explain why
cancer diagnoses can take longer in these patients.
The study appears online Feb. 24 in
The Lancet Oncology.
"These findings highlight limitations in current scientific knowledge," lead author Georgios Lyratzopoulos, of Cambridge University, said in a journal news release. "Medical research in recent decades has prioritized improving cancer treatments, but knowledge about the 'symptom signature' of common cancers and practical solutions on how best to diagnose them is still emerging."
Martin Guilliford, of King's College London, wrote in an
accompanying editorial that the findings raise several questions
that should be tested in future research.
He said some of those questions are: "Do modes of cancer
presentation vary systematically between different groups of
patients? Are (family doctors) more reluctant to refer young or
non-white patients for investigation of possible cancer? Are
participants in these groups less willing to accept a referral to
investigate possible cancer?"
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
cancer diagnosis and tests.
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