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Monday 24th October 2016

GPs should act faster on 'red-flag' symptoms

18th August 2009

Research carried out by the British Medical Journal has found 50% of patients who went to their GP with "red-flag" symptoms had not been given a diagnosis after three years.


The study looked at doctors' records of 760,000 adult patients who had visited their GP with the following symptoms: "blood in the urine, difficulty swallowing, coughing up blood and rectal bleeding".

These symptoms are considered to be serious and should be investigated swiftly. They can indicate that cancer is present in the body. In addition, until the study was completed, it was not known if they predicted other serious illnesses.

The study showed that after 90 days one fifth of patients who exhibited the symptoms were discovered to have a condition such as kidney stones.

After three years, more than 75% of patients who had rectal bleeding had not been given a firm diagnosis, along with 67% of those who had trouble swallowing, 64% who had bloody urine and 46% of those who coughed up blood.

The researchers urged GPs to ensure that patients with worrying problems were tested more urgently.

"GPs in the NHS are seen as the gatekeepers and there is a bit of a feeling that they should restrict access," said study leader Professor Roger Jones.

"This is about investigating the right patients sooner - perhaps have a slightly lower threshold for it than before."


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