The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has updated and redesigned its guideline to help GPs better recognise the signs and symptoms of 37 different cancers, in the hope of accelerating diagnoses and saving lives.

According to the Institute, earlier detection of the disease could save 5,000 lives a year in England alone, so it has updated its 2005 guideline on suspected cancers using a new approach focused on the symptoms that a patient might present with.

The guidance sets out clear tables linking signs and symptoms to possible cancers and includes simple recommendations about which tests to perform and the type of referral to specialist services that should be made.

This should make it easier for GPs to think about the possibility of cancer sooner and refer people for tests quicker which, in turn, should lead to more people getting an earlier diagnosis and a better chance at being cured, the Institute said. 

“This guideline uniquely amongst guidelines of this type presents the evidence on the way that patients present to their GPs. It reflects real life and we expect it to have a major impact on the success rate for cancer in England,” noted Mark Baker, clinical practice director at NICE.