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New NICE Guidelines to Save Lives of Cancer Sufferers

Why these guidelines are needed?

•    300,000 + new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK
•    One in three people will develop cancer in their lifetime
•    160,000 + people die from cancer each year in the UK
•    1000s die each year due to a delay in diagnosing cancer

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New guidelines for earlier diagnosis of cancer

Despite a global forecast that the UK is set to become the biggest economy in Europe, the UK has lagged behind other European countries in cancer treatment statistics for decades. The main reason for this disparity is because the cases of cancer in the UK are diagnosed at a more advanced stage than in other European countries who seem to be better at responding to early symptoms. It is widely known that the earlier cancer is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of survival.

The clinical negligence team at Lanyon Bowdler have welcomed the news that the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have introduced new guidelines to help combat these cancer statistics and allow for earlier diagnosis of those suffering with cancer.

Cases of late diagnosis

The team have sadly acted in numerous cases involving a delay in diagnosis of cancer and ending in tragedy. A case that touched the heart of all the team involved a young mother of four children, who tragically died of metastatic breast cancer as a result of over a 12 month delay in diagnosing her when she first presented with a lump in her breast. With proper assessment, appropriate diagnosis and treatment her untimely death would have been avoided.

Another case that Lanyon Bowdler have dealt with raises an important issue regarding the appearance of blood in urine, the severity of such which is often not appreciated particularly in post menopausal women. Blood in urine, even if it is a one off, can be indication of  cancer. Four out of five people with bladder and endometrial cancer have symptoms of blood in their urine. However, it can come and go and is sometimes not visible to the naked eye. In this case, a post menopausal woman complained to her GP of blood in her urine. Unfortunately, her GP did not investigate and exclude the most serious potential cause, notably cancer. The GP apparently didn’t appreciate the significance of the symptoms. Instead she was treated for a minor ailment called vaginitis. Sadly this lady died of endometrial cancer. Evidence was obtained that she would have survived if her GP had referred her when she presented to him.

Early investigations needed

Cases like these really highlight the need for early investigation and a high index of suspicion. Both of these people would almost certainly still be alive today.

The new NICE guidelines encourage GPs to consider cancer as a possible diagnosis - much sooner and lower the threshold for people having these important tests to make the diagnosis and ensure early treatment. Under the guidelines GPs will be able to order certain tests directly, avoiding the need for referral to a specialist which can cause considerable delay. It is hoped that these guidelines will speed up patient’s access to treatment and ultimately save lives.