Late diagnosis of cancer more likely for women and elderly say Cancer Research UK

A review of previous studies into diagnosis of cancer by Cancer Research UK has discovered several risk factors which are likely to lead to a patient being diagnosed with cancer as an emergency and therefore at a later stage of the disease, as opposed to at an earlier stage via a referral by their GP.

Women, the elderly, the less affluent and even those who are single are believed to be at a higher risk of receiving a delayed cancer diagnosis through emergency admission to hospital, compared to those cancer sufferers that do not fit one or a number of these criteria. These latest findings are cause for grave concern since early diagnosis of cancer, facilitating the commencement of treatment at an early stage of the disease, is closely linked with rates of effective treatment and cancer patient survival rates. Across all types of cancers, the one year survival rate for those patients diagnosed through emergency admission is significantly lower than those diagnosed through other pathways, e.g. GP referral.

As part of this latest research, experts reviewed 22 previous medical studies which collectively considered some 687,000 patient cases of bowel and lung cancer. In over 29% of these cases patients were only diagnosed with cancer following emergency attendance at hospital. Cancer Research UK conducted the review into the 22 pre-existing research papers so as to provide a better understanding of some of the reasons for so many cases of cancer being diagnosed as part of an emergency admission, often at a late and more dangerous stage of the disease.

The research suggests that the rate of late cancer diagnosis is far worse in cases of lung cancer with almost 40% of lung cancer patients considered as part of the research receiving being diagnosed following an emergency admittance to hospital, this compares to a lesser (but still significant) rate of 25% of bowel cancer cases.

Correlations were found between old age and an increased rate of emergency diagnosis for both lung and bowel cancers, as well as women and deprived groups and emergency diagnosis of lung cancer. Those more likely to be living alone (widowed, divorced, single) are more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer as part of an emergency admission to hospital compared to their married or cohabiting counter-parts.

Where patients have received a delayed cancer diagnosis or delayed treatment, through no fault of their own or at the negligence of their clinician (be it their GP or other medical professional), they may be entitled to claim compensation for delayed cancer diagnosis. Delays may arise as a result of misdiagnosis of cancer as another illness, causing delays in referrals for appropriate cancer treatment, or simply delays in accessing NHS cancer services.

If you or a loved one have experienced unnecessary delays in the diagnosis or treatment of cancer, call the clinical negligence compensation specialists at Blackwater Law Solicitors for free initial advice.

Commenting on the research, Sara Hoim, Director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said:

“We need a better understanding of why some people are having their cancer diagnosis made via an emergency admission. This is important because we know that their survival chances are lower if people are diagnosed this way.”