New GP guidance aims to save lives from bone cancer

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Doctors are being issued new training to help them better detect cases of primary bone cancer after it was revealed less than half of sufferers were diagnosed by their GP.

The Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT), a Leeds-based national charity, has teamed up with the Royal College of GPs to devise an e-learning course which equips doctors with new information on symptoms of the deadly condition.

Public Health England figures also show almost a quarter of patients were diagnosed after emergency visits between 2005 and 2010, which left them more likely to require an amputation and with poorer survival chances than those referred by their GP.

John Young, from Malton, was 45 when he started experiencing pain in the base of his spine and what turned out to be primary bone cancer went undiagnosed for around five months.

An MRI scan at York Hospital eventually revealed he had a large inoperable tumour in his pelvis. Aged 47 he passed away on New Year’s Day 2010.

His wife Ann now hopes the new guidance will lead to early diagnosis and increase the chances of survival for people with a condition that is affects 600 people in the UK and Ireland every year.

“It’s a problem with awareness,” she said. “The sooner they are diagnosed and the sooner their treatment can commence the better their chances of survival.

“In my husband’s case without an early diagnosis he had five months of discomfort that might otherwise have been reduced. If we had known of the condition earlier his life might have been prolonged.”

Primary bone cancer symptoms can often be mistaken for other conditions such as growing pains and sporting injuries.

Julie Harrington, BCRT chief executive, said: “If you have any unexplained lumps or pain, do not hesitate to discuss the possibility of primary bone cancer with your GP, at least to rule it out. We realise doctors may only see one or two cases in their career, which is why we want to support them in early diagnosis.”

BCRT has launched the Saving Life & Limb campaign as part of Bone Cancer Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday, to highlight the importance of early diagnosis.

For information visit www.bonecancerresearch.org.uk.