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Unknown GPs could spot cancer quicker

27 April 2015

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Symptoms of lung and bowel cancer could be picked up faster if patients see an unknown doctor rather their usual GP, University of Bristol researchers found.

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, said: “Many people prefer to have a single family doctor, but these intriguing findings suggest that in some cases a fresh pair of eyes could be better at spotting early signs of cancer.

“Most GPs will only see eight or so new cancer cases a year, despite thousands of patients arriving with potential cancer symptoms, so anything that can be done to support GPs in diagnosing cancer earlier is worth pursuing.”

This study used data from the General Practice Research Database of 18,500 patients aged 40 years or older at diagnosis, with at least one year of medical data.

Seeing the same doctor either before or after experiencing potential cancer symptoms didn’t seem to affect time to diagnosis for breast cancer, suggesting that the potential benefits may be restricted cancers that are harder to diagnose.