A major study by Cancer Research UK has identified the risk factors which result in cancer sufferers being more likely to be diagnosed as an emergency case rather than referred by their GP. These factors including being elderly, living alone or being a woman.
The review examined 22 studies featuring 687,000 cases of lung and bowel cancer. More than one quarter of cases had not been diagnosed until the patient presented as an emergency in hospital, by which time the disease is often more advanced.
Researchers from Leeds Institute of Health Sciences said older people might have greater risks of late diagnosis because they were more likely to live alone, with no one else to notice their symptoms and that they might suffer a number of health problems that could make diagnosis more difficult. While women might encourage their partners to see a GP, they are less likely to act on their own concerns.
Those over the age of 60 were found to be more likely than younger people to have been diagnosed with bowel and lung cancer as an emergency. Bowel cancer sufferers of both genders were more likely to be diagnosed as an emergency if they were unmarried, divorced or widowed.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK said: “We need a better understanding of why some people are having their cancer diagnosis made via an emergency admission. This is important because we know that their survival chances are lower in people who are diagnosed this way.” She called on the Government to do more to ensure more cancers are diagnosed earlier.
Rebecca Morgan, associate in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team said: “We often witness the devastating effects that a delay in diagnosis of cancer can have on a client. There are numerous cancer awareness events taking place throughout the year – including Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April. It is important that we raise awareness of symptoms of cancer and encourage those who think they have such symptoms to seek medical advice.”