Research and statistics on early diagnosis mark World Cancer Day

Matt Woodley

4/02/2019 4:00:26 PM

GPs are told to consider laryngeal cancer in cases of persistent sore throat, while Cancer Australia has released new colorectal cancer statistics.

A persistent sore throat could be a sign of laryngeal cancer.
A persistent sore throat could be a sign of laryngeal cancer.

The laryngeal cancer advice stems from a new study that found a persistent sore throat together with shortness of breath, problems swallowing or earache is associated with a 5% risk of cancer. Patients with long term hoarseness alone have a 2.7% risk.
The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP), is aimed at facilitating the earlier detection of cancer and involved more than 800 people diagnosed with larynx cancer, as well as nearly 3600 control patients.
Currently, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines only recommend investigation for laryngeal cancer in patients with persistent hoarseness or an unexplained lump.
However, study author Professor Willie Hamilton said the new research provides greater insight into the combination of symptoms GPs should be alert to when determining who should be investigated for the disease.
‘This research matters – when NICE guidance for cancer investigation was published there was no evidence from GP practices to guide this – nor to inform GPs,’ Professor Hamilton said.
‘Crucially, hoarseness serious enough to be reported to GPs does warrant investigation. Furthermore, our research has shown the potential severity of some symptom combinations previously thought to be low-risk.’
The research was conducted using patient records for more than 600 GP practices as part of the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Shephard, from the University of Exeter Medical School, told the BBC the research is the first comprehensive look at all the symptoms that might be important for laryngeal cancer.
‘The significance of the study really is that we’ve found that hoarseness is important for laryngeal cancer, but significantly the risk of having laryngeal cancer greatly increases when it’s combined with a recurrent sore throat,’ she said.
‘There’s still some way to go and the results of this study really highlight the need to improve the current recommendations for all of the head and neck cancers – which are either incomplete or absent.’
It is estimated around 634 Australians were diagnosed with laryngeal cancer last year.

Meanwhile, Cancer Australia has revealed people diagnosed with stage 1 colorectal cancer now have a five-year survival rate of 99%.
The statistics, published in conjunction with World Cancer Day under the theme ‘I Am and I Will’, aim to show how important early detection is with regard to treatment outcomes.
Australia has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world, with approximately 16,400 people expected to be diagnosed this year. It is also the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the country after lung cancer, with around 108 Australians estimated to die each week as a result of the disease.
Cancer Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Zorbas said while patients diagnosed with early stage cancer had high survival across all age groups, people with late stage cancer at diagnosis had lower relative survival and this became progressively lower in subsequent years from diagnosis.
‘The data shows that survival remained high for people diagnosed with earlier stage colorectal cancer five years from diagnosis,’ Dr Zorbas said.
‘Almost half (46%) of cases were diagnosed at an early stage (stage 1, 22%; stage 2, 24%) and relative survival for early stage cancers remains high one, three and five years after diagnosis. This is powerful information demonstrating that early stage cancers can be successfully treated if diagnosed early.’
Dr Zorbas described the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) as an effective way to improve diagnosis rates, and urged people aged between 50–74 years of age to access the scheme every two years, saying it could save 500 lives annually.

Bowel cancer Cancer Diagnosis Laryngeal cancer National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Research

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