New services have been introduced to help find cancer sooner

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A new initiative to speed up cancer diagnosis and provide GPs with an alternative route to urgently refer patients has been launched.

Three Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres (ECDC), within existing NHS facilities, will help to pick up cancer earlier where patients do not meet referral guidelines.

The centres, being delivered through the National Centre for Sustainable Delivery, will provide GPs with an alternative route to urgently refer patients who have non-specific symptoms suspicious of cancer, such as weight loss, fatigue, pain, and nausea, or where the doctor’s instinct is that cancer may be involved.

cancer - Health News Scotland
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash. Where cancer is the cause, the increased time taken to diagnose these patients can often result in poorer outcomes.

Centres in Ayrshire & Arran, Dumfries & Galloway and Fife will play a key role in delivering earlier diagnosis and improved care, with fast-track diagnostic testing at one appointment, where possible.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran and NHS Fife aim to diagnose or rule out cancer within 21 days of diagnosis, while NHS Dumfries & Galloway is working towards an ambitious 7-day turnaround.

Patients presenting with non-specific symptoms can be more difficult to diagnose as some symptoms, or combinations of symptoms, can have a range of potential causes, not all of which are cancer.

cancer - Health News Scotland (1)
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash. All patients will be assigned a ‘navigator’ to support them and to answer any questions or concerns they have at any time.

Under this new model, as well as an examination and suite of tests performed in primary care at the point of referral, patients will largely be sent for a CT scan in the first instance with all results discussed by a team of specialists at the hospital.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The establishment of our first Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres within the first 100 days of this new term marks a radical change to the patient experience of being tested for a suspicion of cancer and will improve the detection of cancers at an earlier stage.

“This person-centred service will mean better care for patients, reducing the number of hospital visits they might otherwise need, preventing them having to repeat diagnostic testing and improving outcomes.

“While the centres will have a wider health benefit in identifying other, serious health conditions, the focus remains on finding cancer as early as possible when it’s easier to treat. The centres reinforce our commitment to improving the experience and outcomes of cancer patients in Scotland and build on the progress of our £43 million Detect Cancer Early Programme.”

Cancer - Health News Scotland
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash. Currently, around 40% of cancer patients in Scotland are diagnosed by routes other than by an urgent suspicion of cancer (USC) referral.

Lorraine Sloan, Strategic Partnership Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We welcome the introduction of the Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres. Getting referred for tests to check for cancer can be a worrying time.

“These centres should help people navigate their way through and get support quickly too.

“For those who do get diagnosed with cancer we know this can affect people physically, emotionally and financially, so early support is vital to ensuring people’s wider needs are met.

“Anyone concerned about cancer or who has been diagnosed with cancer can get support from Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00.”