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Cancer paper wins “Research Paper of the Year”

23 September 2015

A research paper published in 2014 by researchers from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care and colleagues from the universities of Cambridge and Exeter has won Research Paper of the Year Award 2014 from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

The RCGP Research Paper of the Year Award gives recognition to an individual or group of researchers who have undertaken and published an exceptional piece of research relating to general practice or primary care.

The paper “Preferences for cancer investigation: a vignette-based study of primary-care attendees” was published in the journal Lancet Oncology and highlighted public preference for testing and investigation for cancer even at low levels of risk.

Dr Jon Banks, first author of the paper, said: “We found that patients want to be tested at risk levels well below those stipulated by UK guidelines. The message for General Practice is that the public has an appetite for more cancer investigations and referrals, and there is potential for more patient involvement in these decisions. We are delighted to have won recognition for our work and hope that this will help spread the message that GPs can involve patients more when making decisions about cancer investigations and referrals.”

Dr Bank and his colleagues asked 3,649 participants to fill in a total of 6,930 ‘vignettes’ - graphic analyses of symptoms which indicate particular types of cancer. Of those, 88 per cent opted for further investigation, even if there was only a low risk that the symptom could indicate cancer. In fact, there was only a slight rise in those who opted for investigation when the risk factor was higher than one per cent.

Although no fixed threshold were previously defined for the UK, in practice, the new National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines suggest that patients need to have symptoms which indicate a three per cent risk or higher before further tests for most cancers are carried out.

In the UK, one in three people in the UK will develop cancer during their lifetime. Although cancer survival rates in the UK have improved in the past 15 years, it still lags behind average European figures. Earlier diagnosis is considered to be one of the main ways to improve UK survival, particularly by refining the selection of patients for cancer investigation.

The research was part of the DISCOVERY Programme, a five-year initiative between six universities and the NHS which aims to transform the diagnosis of cancer and prevent hundreds of unnecessary deaths each year.

The official announcement about the winning paper will be made at the RCGP’s annual conference (Glasgow, 1-3 October).

Further information

Preferences for cancer investigation: a vignette-based study of primary-care attendees’ by Jonathan Banks, Sandra Hollinghurst, Lin Bigwood, Tim J Peters, Fiona M Walter, Willie Hamilton in Lancet Oncology.

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