GPs struggling to spot cancer in children

ALMOST half of GPs are struggling to spot the signs of cancer in children due to a lack of training, a poll suggests.

46 per cent said a lack of training was one of the top barriers to identifying childhood cancer. Picture: PA
46 per cent said a lack of training was one of the top barriers to identifying childhood cancer. Picture: PA

A lack of awareness of symptoms is also leading to delays in diagnosis, the survey of 1,000 GPs found.

Some 46 per cent said a lack of training was one of the top three barriers to identifying childhood cancer, with 22 per cent saying it was the main barrier.

Almost a third (32 per cent) said a lack of awareness of symptoms was one of their top three barriers, while 33 per cent said initial GP training did not offer enough experience in the care of children.

The survey was carried out for children’s cancer charity, CLIC Sargent. Chief executive Lorraine Clifton said: “It is very striking so many GPs feel that more could be done to help them identify suspected childhood cancer.

“Because cancer in children is rare, a GP may only have one or two cases in their whole career.”

Some 57 per cent of GPs surveyed said discussions with experts, such as paediatricians, would help them spot signs of cancer. A total of 51 per cent said they needed more time for training sessions on symptoms, and half called for more time for appointments with patients.

CLIC Sargent also surveyed 186 parents of children with cancer, of whom most (62 per cent) said GPs lacked knowledge of symptoms. A third felt their child had a delayed diagnosis, with just under half seeing their GP at least three times before their child’s cancer was suspected.

Of those who felt there was a delay in diagnosis, half said it had affected the treatment their child needed.

Some 63 per cent also said the delay affected their child’s emotional wellbeing and 81 per cent said it affected their own emotional wellbeing.

Meanwhile, one in five middle-aged women has admitted ignoring symptoms which could indicate ovarian or womb cancer in a survey of 1,000 women by charity The Eve Appeal.

Persistent bloating, pelvic discomfort and changes to periods were seen by many women aged 46-55 as normal for their age, the survey found.

And four in ten questioned believed there was a greater stigma around gynaecological cancers than other cancers.

A fifth (20 per cent) also felt such cancers were associated with promiscuity, in part due to the link between the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

Dr Adeola Olaitan, consultant gynaecological at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s shocking so many women are avoiding seeking help for gynaecological health problems for fear of being judged on their sexual behaviour.

“Early diagnosis can save lives, so it’s important that we all start having honest conversations about the signs and symptoms to break down the social taboos.”