Introduction Detection of lung cancer at an earlier stage generally leads to a better prognosis. In the UK, there is a 62-day target from GP referral to cancer treatment; therefore the opportunity to improve earlier detection of lung cancer, in terms of stage, is dependent on earlier “red flag” symptom recognition and referral. We hypothesised that GP education of the early symptoms of lung cancer should lessen time from symptom onset to time seen in the Respiratory outpatients (OPA).
Methods We introduced a health campaign across Essex consisting of GP education and public awareness. Phase 1 involved GP education and phase 2 patient and public education. We compared patients referred with a diagnosis of lung cancer, in one centre in 2010 and 2011 prior to and after GP education, to ascertain if time of onset of symptoms to first attendance at lung cancer OPA improved. Patients who had a diagnosis of lung cancer were entered into a prospective database. Data collected included symptom duration, referral times and staging. GP education comprised of seminars and group visits to the multidisciplinary members in GP practices, as well as provision of information packs. Data were collected by members of the lung cancer team.
Results Data demonstrated no significant difference in mean symptom duration, nor the number of patients being referred at an earlier stage (Abstract P155 table 1). However, there was a 50% increase in the number of GP referrals during the period following intervention.
Conclusions These results demonstrate that GP education has not significantly increased early detection of lung cancer, although it has dramatically increased the number of 2-week referrals, this is noteworthy, since awareness of lung cancer symptoms may have improved in the GP population following education. It may be that targeting the public/patients themselves, will reduce the time of symptom onset to presentation to the medical profession. We will address this in the next phase of our study when we aim the education at the general public. This will help determine the impact of increasing public awareness and education on earlier presentation of suspicious symptoms.