Early Diagnosis and Referral

Finding and treating cancer when it is at an early stage provides the best chance of effective treatment. For example, more than 9 out of 10 people will survive bowel cancer if diagnosed at stage 1, as opposed to just 4 out of 10 when diagnosed at stage 4.

Patients with signs and symptoms suggestive of cancer should be referred for investigation according to national and local guidelines. Current NICE guidelines for England, Wales and Northern Ireland recommend the threshold of 3% positive predictive value for suspected cancer pathway referrals. It is important to recognise that, at this threshold, most referrals for suspected cancer will not lead to a cancer diagnosis.


Diagnosis and Referral Guidance



Cancer Site Specific Guidance

Decision Support and Safety Netting

Cancer symptoms are complex and can be vague and non-specific. An increasing number of decision support tools have been developed to aid in assessing a person's risk. These are designed to be used as an adjunct to, and not a replacement for, clinical judgement and current guidance. It is important to remember that people at low risk still have a risk. Effective safety netting will help to bring those people back promptly if symptoms do not improve, or if new symptoms develop.

Cancer Research UK: Safety netting