Cancer diagnosis made simpler with “one stop shops” trialled by the NHS

The NHS, UK is trying out “one stop shops” for cancer diagnosis where results maybe obtained in a single day. These centres are referral centres where GPs can send in patients who suffer from “vague” symptoms including fatigue.

These centres would test the individuals for different cancers using multiple tests and ensure quick reports delivery. This could benefit hundreds of thousands of patients who are diagnosed late into their disease when survival rates are lower.

This is a pilot scheme that the NHS is trying out. The experts say that general practitioners can now refer patients with vague symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, increased sweating, feeling unwell and other discomforts to these assessment centres. There these patients can undergo multiple tests for different forms of cancer. The purpose of these centres is to assess and diagnose cancers in persons who do not have specific alarming symptoms of a specific cancer. This scheme is being coordinated by the NHS along with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support.

From these assessment centres, the reports are expected to reach the patients within a day or at the most within two weeks time. According to Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, the purpose is to diagnose cancers early. She said, “Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country… These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated.” Nearly 350,000 new diagnosis of cancer are made annually in the UK and this step could increase detection of cancers early when they are treatable.

According to Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, these pilot assessment centres would provide a better understanding of the gaps in cancer diagnosis in patients who show “less obvious symptoms”. Diagnosis early on can improve the care of these patients and also improve their chances of survival drastically she said.

The pilot assessment centres are set up at 10 sites at present including

  • North Middlesex University Hospital, London
  • University College Hospital, London
  • Southend University Hospital
  • Queen's Hospital, Romford
  • Royal Free Hospital, London
  • St James's University Hospital, Leeds
  • Airedale General Hospital, West Yorkshire
  • University Hospital, South Manchester
  • Royal Oldham Hospital, Greater Manchester and
  • Churchill Hospital, Oxford

According to the NHS, this effort is a “step change” in the ways people are being diagnosed and treated for cancers at present. The key point here is to diagnose early and quickly. This could save numerous lives the experts say. This approach has been already adopted in Denmark. The final aim is to give a final diagnosis of cancer or declare clear of cancer to the patients within 28 days of referral. If this pilot is a success, more such assessment centres would be set up across England.

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