The goal of our research is to reduce the time it takes for people to get a diagnosis of a brain tumour. Having to live with symptoms that you are worried about for weeks or even months and then discovering that your worst fears are confirmed with a diagnosis of brain tumour just adds to the distress.
The challenge though is that the early signs of brain tumours are quite non-specific and it's difficult for GPs and hospital doctors to know which people should be referred for urgent brain imaging.
As 2016 draws to a close we are hopefully closer to providing the answers to this challenge, thanks to a grant supported by The Brain Tumour Charity. With colleagues in Edinburgh, Bristol and Exeter, we have been mining large amounts of anonymised patient data in order to identify patterns of symptoms and GP visits that suggest a brain tumour diagnosis is more likely.
These patterns may help us devise new referral pathways that make it easier to prioritise people for brain imaging who are most likely to have a brain tumour. Earlier scanning means earlier diagnosis.
For some people this may mean that surgery can be more aggressive, but for everyone it should mean reduced anxiety and uncertainty.
So, 2017 is an exciting year ahead. The research team is in place and the data analysis will continue.
We have also been assessing a referral tool for GPs in Lothian, Scotland, and will begin to get the first feedback as to whether this reduces the time to diagnosis.
We will be working with GPs for their feedback on the tool. The information that we are generating in all this research is unique in its scale and completeness, so we have a rich resource and knowledge that we are also sharing with other researchers looking at improving brain tumour diagnosis.
It couldn't happen without all of our supporters who raise the money, so, thank you very much.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.