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Decision making and referral from primary care for possible lung and colorectal cancer: A qualitative study of patients' experiences

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Nicola HallORCiD


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© 2014 British Journal of General Practice. Background The challenge for GPs when assessing whether to refer a patient for cancer investigation is that many cancer symptoms are also caused by benign self-limiting illness. UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) referral guidelines emphasise that the patient should be involved in the decision-making process and be informed of the reasons for referral. Research to date, however, has not examined the extent to which these guidelines are borne out in practice.Aim To assess the degree to which patients are involved in the decision to be referred for investigation for symptoms associated with cancer and their understanding of the referral.Design and setting Qualitative interview study of patients referred to secondary care for symptoms suspicious of lung and colorectal cancer. Patients were recruited from two regions of England using maximum variation sampling.Method Transcribed interviews were analysed thematically.Results The analysis was based on 34 patient interviews. Patients in both symptom pathways reported little involvement in the decision to be referred for investigation. This tended to be accompanied by a patient expectation for referral, however, to explain ongoing and un-resolving symptoms. It was also found that reasons for referral tended to be couched in non-specific terms rather than cancer investigation, even when the patient was on a cancer-specific pathway.Conclusion GPs should consider a more overt discussion with patients when referring them for further investigation of symptoms suspicious of cancer. This would align clinical practice with NICE guidelines and encourage more open discussion between GPs and primary care patients around cancer.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Banks J, Walter FM, Hall N, Mills K, Hamilton W, Turner KM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of General Practice

Year: 2014

Volume: 64

Issue: 629

Pages: e775-e782

Online publication date: 01/12/2014

Acceptance date: 25/08/2014

ISSN (print): 0960-1643

ISSN (electronic): 1478-5242

Publisher: Royal College of General Practitioners


DOI: 10.3399/bjgp14X682849

PubMed id: 25452542


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