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BJGP Open ; 5(4)2021 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1234852


BACKGROUND: Early diagnosis is key to improve cancer outcomes, and most cancers are diagnosed in primary care after initial symptomatic presentation. Emerging evidence suggests an increase in avoidable cancer deaths owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. AIM: To understand GPs' views on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the clinical assessment of possible cancer. DESIGN & SETTING: A qualitative semi-structured interview study with GPs from the East of England. METHOD: GPs were purposively sampled based on age, sex, and years of experience. Interviews were conducted via Zoom or Microsoft Teams in August and September 2020. Transcribed recordings were analysed inductively using thematic analysis. The Model of Pathways to Treatment guided the analysis. RESULTS: Three themes were identified across 23 interviews on GP views on the impact of: (1) changes in patient help-seeking behaviour on symptoms at presentation; (2) remote consultations on managing patients with possible cancer symptoms; and (3) the COVID-19 pandemic on triaging and referring patients with possible cancer. There were positive changes to practice, but concerns were raised about the adequacy of remote consultations for assessing symptoms. Some GPs reported delayed cancer diagnoses, and uncertainty about how backlog in referrals would be managed. CONCLUSION: This study provides new evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on assessing symptomatic patients. Recommendations are made to inform safe and effective primary care clinical practice. Urgent action is needed to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure appropriate symptomatic assessment now and in the future.

Br J Cancer ; 124(7): 1231-1236, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1065853


BACKGROUND: The faecal immunochemical test (FIT) was introduced to triage patients with low-risk symptoms of possible colorectal cancer in English primary care in 2017, underpinned by little primary care evidence. METHODS: All healthcare providers in the South West of England (population 4 million) participated in this evaluation. 3890 patients aged ≥50 years presenting in primary care with low-risk symptoms of colorectal cancer had a FIT from 01/06/2018 to 31/12/2018. A threshold of 10 µg Hb/g faeces defined a positive test. RESULTS: Six hundred and eighteen (15.9%) patients tested positive; 458 (74.1%) had an urgent referral to specialist lower gastrointestinal (GI) services within three months. Forty-three were diagnosed with colorectal cancer within 12 months. 3272 tested negative; 324 (9.9%) had an urgent referral within three months. Eight were diagnosed with colorectal cancer within 12 months. Positive predictive value was 7.0% (95% CI 5.1-9.3%). Negative predictive value was 99.8% (CI 99.5-99.9%). Sensitivity was 84.3% (CI 71.4-93.0%), specificity 85.0% (CI 83.8-86.1%). The area under the ROC curve was 0.92 (CI 0.86-0.96). A threshold of 37 µg Hb/g faeces would identify patients with an individual 3% risk of cancer. CONCLUSIONS: FIT performs exceptionally well to triage patients with low-risk symptoms of colorectal cancer in primary care; a higher threshold may be appropriate in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

Colorectal Neoplasms/diagnosis , Feces/chemistry , Occult Blood , Primary Health Care , Anemia, Iron-Deficiency/complications , Colorectal Neoplasms/complications , Colorectal Neoplasms/physiopathology , England , Female , Hemoglobins/analysis , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Risk Factors , Sensitivity and Specificity , Weight Loss