One-third of people who contract rare types of cancer are initially given the wrong diagnosis, according to new research. In 10% of cases patients had to wait longer than a year to be referred to a hospital by their local doctor, while 8% were not diagnosed until six months after first seeing a specialist.
‘We understand that general practitioners don’t immediately think of cancer in every case, but where there are persistent symptoms rare cancers should be considered,’ said Ajra Broenland, director of the Dutch Federation of Cancer Patient Organisations (NFK).
The survey of 2,027 patients was carried out for the NFK by research institute Integraal Kankercentrum Nederland.
Around 20,000 people are diagnosed with rare cancers such as vulva, bile duct, and head and neck cancer. The survival rate is around 15% lower than for more common varieties.
Half of the patients who took part in the survey were referred to a hospital within two weeks of visiting their doctor, but in 25% of cases the process took longer than three months and 8% waited for over a year.
One in three people had to wait more than four weeks from their first appointment with a specialist to receive a diagnosis. ‘It is important to detect cancer at the earliest possible stage,’ said Broenland.