New guides to help with suspected and newly-diagnosed cancer

4 August 2021

‘I’ve been referred for tests for possible cancer – what happens now?’

To help answer this question, asked by around 1,800* patients each week across Kent and Medway, new guides are now available to clearly explain the process.

They have been produced by Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance in response to feedback from patients. Many said they felt unsure about what to expect and needed a clearer understanding about what happened after they had been referred by their GP for tests to diagnose or rule out cancer.

A further guide has also been created to explain what happens once a diagnosis of cancer is confirmed.

You said, we did

Tracey Ryan, Macmillan User Involvement Manager with  Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, said: “The guides were produced in response to comments from patients.  As well as basic information about who would be likely to contact them, at what point and how, patients also wanted more guidance on things like whether they should cancel planned holidays, or be available at any time at short notice during the two-week period.

“Some patients said  they were really concerned they were being seen so quickly, thinking that it was really serious; they did not realise  it is normal to be seen within two weeks if their GP thinks there’s even a slight possibility of cancer.

“We hope these new guides go some way towards helping reassure patients and their loved ones, giving answers to some of these questions along with some trusted websites to take a look at.”

The guides are available from GP practices, for download on this page  and from the hospitals where patients go for tests. The guide for explaining the two-week wait process is also available in an accessible easy read format.

When you are referred for tests

Dr Rakesh Koria, NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group’s Cancer and Quality and Education Lead and Macmillan GP Associate Advisor for Kent and Medway, said: “We realise it can be very worrying for patients when we refer them for a suspected cancer. However, I would like to reassure people  that nine out of 10 referrals for suspected cancer do not turn out to be cancer at all.”

“However, it is very important when you are offered an appointment or investigations, you take them up to exclude cancer and, in some cases, diagnose any other non-cancerous illnesses, which  may be causing your symptoms or to simply reassure you there is no serious underlying illness.

“Patients will be able to takeaway these guides  from their GP practice, share them with family, if they wish, and refer to them at each stage so they know what to expect next.”

Visiting hospital for tests

Patients should not be worried about visiting hospitals for diagnostic tests. Hospitals have put measures in place to protect patients and staff from Covid and it is safe to visit for procedures, such as an endoscopy. If you are unable to attend for your appointment, please let the hospital know as soon as you can.

Dr Henry Taylor, Clinical Oncologist at the Kent Oncology Centre, Maidstone, and Clinical Lead for the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance, said: “Patient safety is a priority. We have a range of measures in place, including Covid-secure wards and Covid-protected cancer surgical services, to make sure we can continue to give quality care to patients when they need it.”

*In April 2021, there were around 1,800 patients a week on two-week wait referrals in Kent and Medway.

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