Cancer and general practice

Patients present many symptoms that might be cancer to their general practitioner (GP). Many of these symptoms resemble other less serious symptoms and only a few percent of patients with these symptoms get an actual cancer diagnosis.

A GP will therefore diagnose about ten cancer incidences each year among more than 7,500 personal consultations. It is therefore a very difficult task for the GP to identify the relatively few cancer incidences among the many patient contacts and even more symptoms.

Filter function

We say that the GP performs a ”filter function” as it is his or her job to “filter out” the patients with cancer symptoms and begin further diagnosing. This filter function is illustrated below by “the diagnostic tract”.

It is not possible to show how many symptoms of possible cancers appear in the general population, but an estimate shows that general practice in Denmark has overall 3,5 million contacts concerning cancer each year. 350,000 patients are referred to further diagnosing and app. 35,000 patients are diagnosed with cancer. The health care system must therefore be capable of handling a large patient group who might have cancer and identify those with actual cancer symptoms.

More than 80% of the Danish cancer incidents are identified through general practice. General practice is therefore the focal point in securing optimal cancer diagnosing and for that reason CaP’s research focuses on general practice.