blood test story

Working to improve cancer diagnosis and outcomes in BSW

Cancer affects us all.  Delivering the best outcomes for cancer patients is an absolute priority and we are working hard to save thousands more lives each year by dramatically improving how cancer is diagnosed and treated.  

There is some great work going on here at BSW ICB to help improve diagnosis, outcomes and support for people with cancer. In the second in a series of articles in The Triangle, we look at three new initiatives underway locally to improve diagnosis, treatment and support for those affected by cancer.

Bowel cancer blood test

The Quantitative Faecal Immunochemical Test (QFIT) is a type of blood test used in bowel cancer screening and for patients who GPs think they may be at risk of bowel cancer. 

The QFIT test provides a score which GPs use to help decide whether to refer a patient for further checks.  The test is also used by doctors in hospitals to decide on the most appropriate course of action for those who are referred, whether that be a test, face-to-face outpatient appointment, or remote telephone appointment. 

The QFIT test was introduced a few years ago and has been successfully adopted by GPs across BSW who are using it more and more frequently to ensure patients are on the right care pathway. Its use means they are less likely to be referred onwards when not required and less likely to have to undergo unnecessary diagnostic testing.

Non-Specific Symptoms pathway

The Non-Specific Symptoms pathway (NSS) is a new care pathway for cancer treatment which enables GPs to refer a patient onward without that patient having to meet specific criteria. 

Before the introduction of the NSS pathway, GPs had to refer patients to a specific cancer pathway; if after investigation that particular cancer was not found, the GP would need to refer to another specific cancer pathway until either cancer was found or could be definitively ruled out. 

For patients, this meant they would typically have multiple hospital visits, multiple diagnostic tests and a long delay before cancer was found or ruled out. 

A recent evaluation of NSS pathways across Somerset, Wiltshire, Avon and Gloucestershire Cancer Alliance SWAG cancer alliance, including those in BSW, confirmed that the new approach led to patients being diagnosed faster with fewer hospital visits.

Teledermatology

Advances have also been made through greater uptake of teledermatology across BSW. Teledermatology involves GPs or other primary care healthcare professionals sending images taken with a device called a dermatoscope to cancer consultants to confirm or exclude the likelihood of skin cancer.

Over the last five years, the use of dermatoscopes has increased along with training to help medical staff use them.

For patients, the increased use of teledermatology means many who might otherwise have had to be referred, do not need to be, and can be reassured that they don’t have skin cancer, without having to wait for a hospital appointment. 

Teledermatology also means hospital staff spend less of their time seeing patients without cancer and confirming non-cancer and so can focus their time on those where skin cancer is more likely, or is confirmed.