Reluctance to attend hospital tests and come forward about symptoms could be contributing to delays in lung cancer diagnosis, a Cancer Research UK survey of GPs across the UK has shown.
A study of 1,000 GPs has been carried out by Cancer Research UK to try and explain the decline in both diagnosis and treatment rates for lung cancer. Urgent referrals for the disease have dropped by around a third since March 2020.
Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell, said: “We’re hugely concerned for people who have symptoms but haven’t come forward or are putting off further tests.”
Around 20,300 fewer people in England were urgently referred for suspected lung cancer between March 2020 and January 2021 compared to the same period the year before, while 9% fewer started treatment between April 2020 and January 2021.
Results from the survey, which was carried out in February, revealed that GPs were worried that the reluctance of patients to come forward for care was leading to a delay in diagnosing and treating lung cancer.
The report showed that there was a reluctance to attend hospital for tests or to visit their GPs. Other concerns were the increased turnaround time for diagnostic tests, difficulty in identifying symptoms via remote consultation and turnaround time for COVID-19 testing prior to lung tests.
Dr Neil Smith, Cancer Research UK’s GP adviser, said while initial advice to stay at home and isolate if people had a new, continuous cough, could mean some people understandably delayed seeking help, we know delays to potentially life-saving treatment may mean lung cancer could progress.
“COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of problems, but the tide is turning as cases drop and vaccines are rolled out.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic will have inevitably led to delays in both diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer can lead to a more favourable prognosis.