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Why Cancer Symptoms May Elude M.D.

February 25, 2012
By

FRIDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) — Diagnosing cancer is more difficult
in certain groups of patients, according to a British study.

Researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 41,000 patients with
24 types of cancer who were treated in 158 hospitals across England. They
found that 77 percent of those who saw their family doctor about
suspicious symptoms were referred to a hospital after only one or two
consultations.

However, the study found that women, young people, non-white patients
and patients with less common cancers were more likely to see their family
doctor three or more times before they were referred to a hospital.

The researchers identified large differences in the promptness of
family doctors in England to diagnose different types of cancer. Patients
with symptoms of multiple myeloma, lung and pancreatic cancer required
many more consultations with their family doctor before they were referred
to a hospital, compared to patients with more common cancers such as
breast, melanoma and testicular.

For example, almost 51 percent of patients with the blood cancer
multiple myeloma required multiple visits to their family doctor before
referral, compared with less than 8 percent of breast cancer patients.

Differences in the nature and characteristics of symptoms may explain
why certain cancers are more difficult to diagnose, the researchers said.
For example, multiple myeloma is especially difficult to diagnose because
it mimics other conditions, while a breast lump may readily suggest
cancer, the authors said.

They also said that doctors may be less likely to consider cancer in
younger patients and may have communication difficulties with patients
from different ethnic groups, which may explain why cancer diagnoses can
take longer in these patients.

The study appears online Feb. 24 in The Lancet Oncology.

“These findings highlight limitations in current scientific knowledge,”
lead author Georgios Lyratzopoulos, of Cambridge University, said in a
journal news release. “Medical research in recent decades has prioritized
improving cancer treatments, but knowledge about the ‘symptom signature’
of common cancers and practical solutions on how best to diagnose them is
still emerging.”

Martin Guilliford, of King’s College London, wrote in an accompanying
editorial that the findings raise several questions that should be tested
in future research.

He said some of those questions are: “Do modes of cancer presentation
vary systematically between different groups of patients? Are (family
doctors) more reluctant to refer young or non-white patients for
investigation of possible cancer? Are participants in these groups less
willing to accept a referral to investigate possible cancer?”

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about cancer diagnosis and tests.

Article source: http://news.yahoo.com/why-cancer-symptoms-may-elude-m-d-140206960.html

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