Two new cancer investigative tests have been made available to GPs across Bury to help them provide a faster diagnosis to patients presenting with low risk symptoms of pancreatic or colorectal (bowel) cancer.

GPs will now be able to refer patients at low risk of suspected pancreatic cancer for a direct access computerised tomography (CT) abdomen scan. A CT scan is a more sensitive diagnostic test than an ultrasound scan (which until now has been the available diagnostic) for investigating suspected pancreatic cancer. As the early signs of pancreatic cancer are vague and very similar to many other conditions, referring low risk patients for the scan will provide an earlier and accurate diagnosis.

A second test, known as the faecal immunochemical test (FIT), will be used to help diagnose patients who present with low risk symptoms of bowel cancer. This new test is quick and pain free and reduces the need for these patients to have invasive tests, such as a colonoscopy, in hospital. The test involves the examination of a stool sample for traces of blood. The patient can take the test in the comfort of their own home and drop the sample back into the surgery for onward testing.

The new tests are cost effective and will result in a better experience for the patient as they avoid unnecessary invasive tests and hospital visits. Where a patient does have cancer, the tests will also help to improve their life expectancy by assessing them at an earlier stage and providing a better prognosis.

Dr. Liane Harris, local GP and Clinical Lead for Cancer at NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Until recently, a hospital referral was the main route that GPs would need to take to assess a patient with suspected pancreatic or bowel cancer. The two new tests will help GPs to offer a more efficient way to identify cancer and make a faster diagnosis as patients can receive a report on their results within seven days. In cases where the patient doesn’t have cancer, the GP will provide the most appropriate care and advice to treat their condition and manage their symptoms. This should also help to reduce demand on hospital services and improve waiting times for those at a high risk of cancer.

“We are delighted that these new tests are available to GPs as they will help our GPs to identify which patients would benefit from further tests in hospital and guide patients who require treatment to the most appropriate care. This is also good news for the patient as they may reduce patient anxiety and the need for referral for potentially invasive tests.”