The rapid diagnostic and assessment centres are being introduced across England with the aim of catching cancer earlier and preventing patients from being referred for several tests for different forms of the illness.
NHS England has said these rapid diagnostic and assessment centres are a ‘step change’ in the way people with suspected cancer are diagnosed and treated as patients often face delays when they have non-specific symptoms. The hope is that these centres will speed up cancer diagnosis for these patients.
Rapid diagnosis and then treatment can be vital in saving lives. Although cancer survival rates have improved dramatically over recent decades, patients who are not showing very obvious signs of the illness can often struggle to access the help they need quickly.
Patients with vague symptoms can be referred several times for different cancers, wasting valuable time, including:
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Reduced appetite; and
- Abdominal pain.
Other symptoms can include:
- Unexplained sweats; and
- Generally feeling unwell.
NHS England is now developing an approach first used in Denmark, as they are introducing 10 specialist rapid diagnostic and assessment centres, where patients will receive all the necessary investigations all together.
Unclear cancer symptoms
According to NHS leaders the new centres could play a key role in improving diagnosis and treatment. Cally Palmer, national director for cancer at NHS England, said: “Early diagnosis is crucial to saving lives and providing peace of mind for patients, which is why we are driving forward plans to revolutionise our approach to cancer in this country.
“These new one-stop shops represent a real step change in the way people with unclear symptoms are identified, diagnosed and treated.”
The rapid diagnostic and assessment centres have been developed in collaboration with cancer charities: Macmillan and Cancer Research UK.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at CRUK, said: “We’re confident that these 10 pilot centres will give us a much better understanding of what’s needed to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of people with less obvious symptoms, improve their experience of care and, ultimately, survival rates.
“This is a first for this country and Cancer Research UK is delighted to be partnering with NHS England in this innovative initiative.”