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Cancer clinic cuts diagnosis time


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http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=2460992005

Rapid access facility in city gives results in just a few hours

LINDA SUMMERHAYES

HEALTH REPORTER

A LUNG cancer clinic has slashed the time it takes to give a diagnosis - meaning patients are told whether or not they have the disease within hours of tests.

Patients attending the rapid access clinic at Edinburgh's Western General Hospital are now often told whether or not they have the disease within the hour of being tested for what is Scotland's biggest cancer killer.

Before the clinic was set up, a patient would attend for an initial scan and receive results at a later date before an appointment was made for treatment, a process that usually took up to four weeks.

But now the clinic has cut the red tape and patients can get the results within hours.

Consultant respiratory physician Ron Fergusson said: "We will see about four people a day which gives us lots of time with them.

When they come in here, often they are terrified so it's difficult for them to assimilate the information as they are anxious."

In the Lothians, between 1998 and 2002, 1865 men and 1577 developed lung cancer. Of those, 1450 men and 1204 women died of the disease. Of those who have lung cancer and discover they only have months to live, the clinic offers information and support.

But around 75 per cent of patients who attend the clinic find they are suffering from other diseases such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Dr Fergusson said that the clinic was a good way of screening patients and he stressed that only a quarter will be diagnosed with lung cancer. The remainder will often be suffering from other smoking related conditions such as vascular disease and bronchitis. But he warned that lung cancer was only treatable in a fifth of patients and only if it is discovered extremely early.

The consultant added that an evaluation of the rapid access clinic was about to begin.

"We want to make sure patients like it," he explained. "I am not expecting it to make a difference in terms of survival but for the patient it's a much better deal and it might help us to meet those [scottish Executive] targets."

Health authorities in Scotland have been told they must refer patients for treatment for cancer within two months under Executive targets which come into force at the end of this year.

But recent figures showed that one in five people diagnosed in the Lothians are not being seen by a specialist within target times.

A spokeswoman for the charity Macmillan Cancer Relief said: "The early diagnosis and then moving to treatment quickly is absolutely key because as soon as someone starts being treated the more likely they are to survive."

"Lung cancer is still the biggest cancer killer in Scotland and if we want to see improvements in cancer survival then referral to treatment is really really important because lung cancer is a growing developing disease and people shouldn't have to wait at all."

THE FACTS

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world with 1.2 million new cases diagnosed every year.

It was the most frequently occurring cancer in the UK until recently but has now been overtaken by breast cancer.

It still accounts for one in seven new cancer cases or around 38,400 new patients annually. Around 90 per cent of all lung cancers are caused by smoking, either directly or through indirect exposure.

It is still the most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK due to poor prognosis, with around 33,600 deaths each year, accounting for six per cent of all deaths and 22 per cent of all cancer deaths in the UK.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=2460992005

Last updated: 26-Dec-05 13:28 GMT

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