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GPs to assess cancer risk by computer “within five years”

30 December 2009

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An NHS cancer expert has claimed that family doctors will use tailored computer programmes in order to assess a patient’s risk of cancer within the next five years.

Professor Mike Richards told the Guardian that lives could be saved as doctors will be able to diagnose cancer in its early stages and send patients for urgent tests.

The National Cancer Director for the Department of Health added that while the programme would be a useful tool leading to “better decision-making by GPs”, it would still be family doctors that have a final say in whether to refer a patient for tests.

Professor Richards urged the use of the computer in order to assist doctors because it would take “a remarkable human brain” to identify all the symptoms of different cancers as well as other illnesses.

He said: “Why not get computers to support it? The benefit of this will be that GPs will know who should be investigated and who shouldn’t.”

He added: “It will also help patients to know that whether they are being reassured, or referred, or getting a test, that is the right thing to do.”

The computer would assess risk by taking into account a patient’s age, weight and any symptoms such as rectal bleeding or constant fatigue.

If risk was considered to be above a certain level, the person could be referred to hospital for urgent exploratory tests within two weeks.

Copyright © Press Association 2009