Teens face cancer treatment delays

Teenagers and young adults may face long delays before being diagnosed and receiving cancer treatment on the NHS, new research suggests.

A trio of studies presented at a Teenage Cancer Trust conference have uncovered long delays in diagnosis, particularly for bone and brain tumours and Hodgkin lymphoma.

In one study of 115 patients with bone tumours, the time between the first symptom and a diagnosis ranged from four to 184 weeks, while in another study of 207 young cancer patients, half had to visit their doctor four times or more before they were referred to a specialist.

Sam Smith, a teenage and young adult cancer nurse consultant at Manchester's Christie Hospital, said: "If young people are reporting to their GP with what are recognised as being pretty classic cancer symptoms, cancer should be considered the first possibility and not the last resort.

"However, following the first onset of symptoms many young people reported numerous visits to their GP before being referred to a specialist and many waited several months for this referral to take place."

Experts have called for the public to be better educated about the symptoms of cancer and about how to push for referral to specialists, as well as for more rapid referral pathways to speed up treatment.

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