Campaigners recently issued a call for GP-based screening to be introduced for all patients with single symptoms of haematological cancers.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancers says this would be equivalent to the screening offered for some other kinds of cancer.
GP leaders cast doubt on the viability of the proposal – warning that practices would need access to much improved diagnostic services.
According to the proposal, GPs would order a blood test if a patient presented with any of the non-specific symptoms that can indicate haematological illness – including general fatigue, night sweats, weight loss and unexplained bruising.
The report, The “Hidden” Cancer, also calls for improved education and training for doctors and medical students about these cancers.
Further recommendations suggest the provision of psychological and emotional support to families from the point of diagnosis.
There also needs to be improvements in joined up working between primary and secondary health services and between oncology and haematology teams, it says. The group is supported by the charity Bloodwise.
Group chair Henry Smith MP, whose mother died from acute myeloid leukaemia, said that the national cancer strategy does not “fully” meet the needs of haematology patients.
He writes: “Blood cancer is Britain’s fifth most common cancer and third biggest cancer killer, claiming more lives each year thanmbreast or prostate cancer.
“However, the knowledge and awareness of blood cancer among the general public and policy-makers is very low.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “Each type of blood cancer can present in a varied way, and GPs will base their decisions around what diagnostic testing is most appropriate on the symptoms being displayed by, and the unique circumstances potentially affecting, the patient in front of us.
“Any decision to pursue opportunistic testing must not be undertaken lightly as GPs need a good scientific evidence base before they order any investigations.
“What is certainly needed for GPs to continue doing a good job at identifying any cancers in a timely way, is better access to diagnostic tools in the community, so that we can appropriately investigate and refer patients as well as we can.”
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