Computer software to spot cancer

  • Experts say that a computer program could help GPs spot patients that may have cancer.

    The software will estimate the risk of five types of cancer, even hard-to-detect conditions, based on the symptoms the patient presents. If it believes cancer to be a possible diagnosis it alerts the GP and suggests further tests.

    Some practises in England and Wales have been testing the software in a pilot scheme, which is partially funded by the Department of Health, reports the BBC.

    Macmillan Cancer Support, who are the charity behind the work, hope that the electronic Cancer Decision Support programme could be rolled out to surgeries across the UK beginning in the new year.

    Dr Rosie Loftus, lead GP adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "GPs have a vital role to play in ensuring that cancer is diagnosed at an early stage to give people the best possible chance of survival. When you've only got around 10 minutes with each patient, it's vital that you ask the right questions and are able to quickly calculate someone's risk in order to facilitate an early referral."

    The software can estimate cancer risk for oesophago-gastric, lung, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancers and alerts GPs to the risk as soon as symptoms are discussed.

    Proffessor Willie Hamilton, a GP researcher based at the University of Exeter, and one of those upon whose work the tool is based, said: "Despite the fact that more than one in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, cancer cases are still relatively unusual occurrences for GPs to encounter during their day-to-day practice. We've designed a system that doesn't replace their knowledge or training, but could be used alongside their notes to give extra information."

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