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Software to help GPs spot cancer

07 November 2013 09:36

New software could help GPs spot cancer signs in patients

New software could help GPs spot cancer signs in patients

Family doctors could be alerted when they should send patients for cancer tests - according to researchers - thanks to a new computer program presented at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference.

The Cancer Decision Support software can determine risk of certain cancer types based on symptoms, said researchers at the Liverpool event.

The software can tell the risk carried by a single symptom such as a persistent cough and can also alert GPs when it spots a combination of symptoms.

The program detects a risk of oesophageal cancer if a patient complains of nausea and returns three weeks later with trouble swallowing, and compares symptoms with other factors such as a smoking habit or the patient being an ex-smoker.

Researchers claim it can estimate risk for oesophago-gastric, lung, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.

The researchers have designed a system that GPs could use alongside their notes to give extra information, said Professor Willie Hamilton from the University of Exeter - one of the researchers upon whose work the tool is based.

"When you've only got around 10 minutes with each patient, it's vital that you ask the right questions and are able to quickly calculate someone's risk in order to facilitate an early referral," said Dr Rosie Loftus, lead GP adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support.

Dr Loftus said Macmillan hopes the tool will help GPs identify symptoms and help improve survival rates. The researchers hope the software can eventually be available to all GPs.

The technology is still being tested, but people eventually diagnosed with cancer first identified by it should arrange travel insurance for cancer patients before heading off on holiday.

Macmillan led the work with part-funding from the Department of Health.