Patients should be more knowledgeable about suspicions of cancer when referred for follow-up care by primary care physicians.
A paper published in the British Journal of General Practice discussed how withholding such suspicions from patients can upset patients more than having a candid discussion about the possibility of cancer, even when it is low.
The research was based on transcripts of 34 interviews with patients who had one of a number of specified symptoms potentially associated with lung or colorectal cancer. Often, the decision to hold off discussing a possibility of cancer is because the risk may be low, plus many cancer symptoms are also caused by benign conditions.
Physicians do not want to cause undue anxiety for their patients; however, avoiding a frank discussion of the possibility of cancer can backfire. For example, the researchers interviewed one woman who learned that her secondary care appointment was for a “cancer referral” when she saw details of her case on a computer screen prior to the appointment.
Other patients grew concerned when their referral appointment was processed quickly on the health care system’s 2-week wait pathway. In addition, the reluctance to talk about the possibility of cancer may undermine public health cancer awareness campaigns designed to encourage patients to seek medical attention for nonconcerning symptoms that may persist for longer than usual.
GPs should consider a more overt discussion with patients when referring them for further investigation of symptoms which may indicate cancer, according to a paper published in the British Journal of General Practice.