A disturbing survey suggests that parents’ concerns about cancer in children is not being adequately responded to by GPs.
Nearly half of parents whose children were ultimately diagnosed with cancer felt that their worries about the issue were ignored by doctors.
In addition, over one-third felt that the diagnosis of their child’s condition was significantly delayed, with 50% of these people believing that this ultimately had a significant impact on prognosis.
In response to the figures, cancer charity CLIC Sargent, which conducted the research, is calling for the government to ensure better training and guidance for professionals who care for children before diagnosis.
The figures were based on a survey of 333 people – 147 young people aged 16-24 and 186 parents.
CLIC Sargent chief executive Kate Lee commented: “It is simply not acceptable that so many of the parents and young people we spoke to felt their GP didn’t take their concerns seriously or that their knowledge of their child’s health wasn’t recognised. It is absolutely vital that medical professionals including GPs are confident and skilled in listening and talking to children, young people and parents – and responding to their concerns. That’s why we’re calling for health education bodies to make this a core element of professional training.”
And the lack of a satisfactory diagnosis can have a big impact on the way that cancer sufferers feel about their condition.
Respondents to the survey almost ubiquitously (93%) indicated that delays in diagnosis had a negative impact on their mental state.
Unfortunately, the research indicates that there is a continual pattern of not taking cancer symptoms seriously enough in young children, and that delays in diagnoses are having a massive impact on the well-being of those unfortunate enough to ultimately be diagnosed.
But GPs who were surveyed by the charity also suggested that they are unprepared to diagnose cancer adequately in children.
Nearly half in fact indicated that more training is required in this area, while exactly half indicated that additional consultation time would be beneficial for diagnosis.
The aforementioned Lee commented that GPs lack of training was unacceptable, and something that would continue to have an impact on the diagnosis of cancer in children until it is adequately addressed.
“It is striking that so many GPs feel more can be done to help them identify suspected cancer. Cancer in children and young people is thankfully rare so a GP may only have one or two cases in their whole career.”
Sean Duffy, national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, outlined the position of the health body.
“Early diagnosis must be of the highest priority for cancer patients of all ages. This report highlights the challenges of identifying cancer in children, and shows the vital need for everyone, including GPs, to be more aware of the early signs. NICE guidance has been recently updated to lower the referral threshold for GPs, and we have begun a major programme of work to test innovative ways to diagnose cancer more quickly in all patients.”
Although cancer is associated with older people, it can also be contracted by children and younger people as well.
Indeed, nearly 4,000 children and young people are diagnosed with cancer on an annual basis in UK.