Early GP referrals are improving survival in cancer patients, suggests a study published today in the British Journal of General Practice.
The analysis included more than 1.4 million patients diagnosed with cancer in England between 2011 and 2015, and found that cancer patients from the highest referring GP practices had a lower mortality rate.
Cancer patients from the highest referring practices had a lower hazard of death (HR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.97). There were similar patterns for individual cancers: colorectal (HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.93-0.97); lung (HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.94-0.97); breast (HR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.93-0.99); and prostate (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.85-0.91) (all P<.001>
Similarly, for cancer patients from these practices, there were lower odds of late-stage diagnosis for individual cancer types, except for colorectal cancer.
Overall, the accuracy in case selection for urgent referral was not significantly associated with mortality or stage at diagnosis.
Commenting on the findings, the authors said this research adds to evidence supporting the policy of lowering referral thresholds from primary care and subsequent increased use of suspected cancer referral pathways.
However, they add: “With referrals in England (and other countries) increasing year on year, additional risk assessment and triage testing in primary care before referral for certain cancers, such as colorectal, may be indicated.”