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PCRS champions role of primary care in increasing lung cancer survival


Expert advice on how all members of the primary are team can improve detection of patients at risk of lung cancer is set out in a new suite of articles published by PCRS.

This crucial role of primary care in the early diagnosis and support of lung cancer patients, promoted by PCRS, is vital, says Professor Mick Peake, Clinical Director, Centre for Cancer Outcomes, University College London Hospitals; Honorary Professor of Respiratory Medicine, University of Leicester and Chair Clinical Advisory Group, UK Lung Cancer Coalition.

He explains that survival rates are increasing largely as a result of more and more patients receiving surgical and other radical therapies.

The proportion of patients diagnosed at stages I and II has been increasing in England in recent years, rising from 19.5% in 2012 to 28% in 2017. But this remains a lower proportion than that seen in many other western countries.

“We are living in a time of increasing opportunity for the early diagnosis and more effective treatment of this common cancer. GPs and their colleagues in primary care have a vital role to play in trying to identify patients as early as possible to ensure that patients have access to the very best that the specialist lung cancer teams can offer,” he says.

Dr Daryl Freeman, GP and Associate Clinical Director for Norfolk Community Heath & Care, explains why everyone in the primary care team should have a high index of suspicion and a low threshold to refer patients and be aware of the NICE guidance on lung cancer. 

She sets out how to recognise what may be vague signs in high risk patients.  In addition clinicians must be aware of the access they have to radiology and onward referral pathways to their local lung cancer service.

“It is critical that all healthcare professionals including practice nurses and allied healthcare professionals working in primary care have an understanding and awareness of lung cancer signs and symptoms and also are aware of high risk groups (e.g., smokers/COPD) in whom lung cancer is more common.

“Primary care professionals also need to be aware of current screening programmes available in some parts of the country,” she says.