“Perfect storm” of problems leading to drop in urgent referrals for lung cancer

A RELUCTANCE to attend hospital for diagnostic tests as well as increased worry over symptoms may be behind a drop of over a third (34 per cent) in urgent referrals for lung cancer since March of 2020, according to a survey of GPs carried out by Cancer Research UK.

The UK-wide survey of 1,000 GPs found that the highest reported concern was reluctance to attend hospital for tests – with 91 per cent of GPs feeling this was contributing to delays. This was followed by concern over patients with symptoms reluctant to come forward to primary care (78 per cent).

Other pandemic-related factors include increased turnaround time for diagnostic tests (73 per cent of GPs), difficulty in identifying symptoms via remote consultation (68 per cent) and turnaround time for Covid-19 testing prior to lung tests (54 per cent).

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."