Doctors miss ‘Cinderella cancers’

Patients with less common cancers are only being referred to hospital after three or more consultations with their GP

Patients suffering from ‘Cinderella cancers’ – so called because of their lowly status in regard to cancer diagnosis and treatment – are waiting too long for diagnosis.

A study found that patients with multiple myeloma, pancreatic, stomach and ovarian cancer – each of which have fewer than 10,000 victims a year – will most likely visit their GP several times before they are referred to a hospital for diagnosis.

Around 50 per cent of patients suffering from multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood, needed three or more GP visits before being diagnosed. Multiple myeloma patients are 18 times more likely to make repeat visits compared with breast cancer patients.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found that the most pre-referral consultations occurred when the cancer was less common or when the patient was female, aged between 16-24, or an older person from an ethnic minority.

The study looked at 24 different cancers and was conducted amid concerns that cancer patients are being denied the best chance of survival because of delays in diagnosis.

‘It is time GPs sat up and took notice. Just because it’s rare doesn’t mean it isn’t there,’ says Joe Felgate, chief executive of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust.

The Health Department has acknowledged the need to reduce diagnosis times. A spokesman said: ‘We have committed ₤450 million to help diagnose cancer earlier.’

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