NICE Proposes a Symptom-Based Approach to Reduce Cancer Mortality

NICE has updated and redesigned its guideline to support primary care physicians to recognize the signs and symptoms of 37 different cancers and refer people for the right tests faster.

Early detection and diagnosis in cancer is being appreciated as an efficient way to reduce cancer mortality. Some of the early signs and symptoms of cancer can be non-specific enough to not cause concern, but if associated with cancer, could result in better outcomes. UK's National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) has estimated that 5000 lives could be saved if the disease is detected early.

Primary care physicians (PCPs) would probably be the first to encounter a likely cancer patient; by training them to recognize specific signs and symptoms of the disease could help prevent unenecessary delays in initaiting treatment. With this in mind, NICE has updated and redesigned its guideline to support PCPs to recognize the signs and symptoms of 37 different cancers and refer people for the right tests faster.

For example, the guideline prompts PCPs to offer a chest X‑ray to assess for lung cancer in people 40 years old and over if they have 2 or more of the following unexplained symptoms, or if they have smoked and have 1 or more of the following unexplained symptoms: cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, appetite loss.

For breast cancer, the guideline recommends referral to an oncologist for women 30 years old and over with an unexplained breast lump with or without pain or aged 50 and over with any of the following symptoms in one nipple only: discharge, retraction, other changes of concern.

The guideline, say several experts, will force physicians to collectively think about the disease site and the symptoms, which raises the probablity of identifying potential cancers.

According to professor Mark Baker, clinical practice director at NICE, “The best way to successfully treat cancer is to make an early diagnosis. The sooner the disease is identified, the more likely treatment is to be effective. Earlier diagnoses have the potential to save thousands of lives each year."

Read more on the NICE website: http://bit.ly/1GkoJ4K