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We respond to national roll-out of fast-track cancer testing in England

NHS England has announced a national roll-out of ‘fast-track testing’ to help detect cancer

a doctor inspection an MRI report which is typical cancer testing protocol

NHS England has today announced that a national roll-out of ‘fast-track’ cancer testing could help detect thousands of cancers sooner in England.

NHS England will be expanding direct access to diagnostic scans for GPs across all practices, which it says could help cut waiting times and speeding up a cancer diagnosis or all-clear for patients.

Currently, NICE guidance already recommends that GPs consider referring those with suspected brain cancer symptoms directly for an MRI, rather than referring them to a brain tumour specialist via a pathway known as the “two week wait” – however not all GPs across the country have access to this ‘direct’ referral route to testing.

Further information about NHS England’s announcement can be found here.

Stephanie Kleynhans, Policy Manager at The Brain Tumour Charity, said:

“This is an encouraging step forward that could help ensure more people with potential brain tumour symptoms can receive the diagnosis, support or reassurance they need at the earliest opportunity.

“Untangling key symptoms of brain tumours from those caused by other more likely and less serious conditions unfortunately remains a significant challenge. Prompt diagnosis is so important as it can help reduce the impact of brain tumour and ensure people can receive treatment and support sooner – and we know that any delays in getting the right diagnosis can cause a great deal of distress.

“Clinical guidance has for some time recommended GPs should consider referring people with suspected brain cancer directly for an MRI scan, however access has unfortunately remained patchy across the country. So it’s really positive that action is being taken to ensure this approach can be rolled-out further and made available to all GP practices in England.

“As we await further detail about how this will be implemented, it’s critical that we see sufficient investment in the NHS workforce and systems needed to ensure its delivery. It will also be vital that support will be provided to GPs to ensure they can feel confident in communicating scan results and radiology reports with patients, and that clear pathways are in place for them to urgently refer people with a concerning scan result onto specialist neurosurgery and neuro-oncology services.

While brain tumours remain relatively rare, we’d encourage anyone who is worried about a symptom that’s unusual for them, and particularly if it is persistent or they experience a combination of symptoms, to speak to their doctor – to help rule a brain tumour out. Anyone concerned can also speak to us on 0808 800 0004 or find out more about the possible signs and symptoms and our new Better Safe Than Tumour campaign at headsmart.org.uk. We’re here for you.