Cancer referral guidelines
In the UK, referral guidelines for suspected cancer have been produced by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).
The NHS Cancer Referral Guidelines from NICE aim to help GPs and other health professionals know when to refer people to specialists if they have symptoms that could be caused by a cancer. The guidelines include three levels of referral:
immediate referral - where you’re seen by a specialist within a few hours
urgent referral - where you’re seen by a specialist within the national target for urgent referrals (currently two weeks)
non-urgent referral - where you’re seen by a specialist under locally agreed referral systems.
Although two weeks may seem like a long time to wait for an urgent referral, if the symptoms are caused by a cancer it’s unlikely to have changed in this time.
The guidelines also include guidance on the need for information and support.
The NICE cancer referral guidelines are divided into three sections:
General information about being referred for suspected cancer.
Adult cancers - this includes a list of symptoms with recommendations of when someone should be referred to a specialist.
Children and young people with suspected cancer.
Details of the guidance is available on the NICE website.
The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) are the Scottish equivalent of NICE and produce cancer guidelines for Scotland.