Issues in diagnosis | Sarcoma UK

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Issues in diagnosis

What is early diagnosis?

Being diagnosed with any cancer is an isolating and lonely experience.

This is particularly true for sarcoma patients, who have agonisingly long waits for a diagnosis of a cancer that has such limited treatment options.

The later that any cancer, including sarcoma, is diagnosed, there will be even fewer options available for treatment and a higher chance of treatments not working. Put simply, late diagnosis costs lives.

Why is it important to diagnose sarcomas quickly and accurately?

For soft tissue sarcomas, survival is determined be tumour size, grade and location.The only one of these factors that can be altered to improve outcome is the size of the tumour at diagnosis. By early detection we can catch tumours at a smaller size and improve outcomes.

Catching sarcoma at an early stage also means that the cancer is less likely to have spread, increasing the chance of survival.

Delays in diagnosis are also associated with increased risk of metastases, increased risk of amputation rather than limb salvage surgery and may have an impact on a patient’s opportunity for fertility preservation.

Why aren’t sarcomas diagnosed earlier?

GP awareness

Patients regularly tell us that their symptoms are often dismissed by primary healthcare professionals, such as GPs.

They are told they have a common benign condition such as a cyst or growing pains, without any follow-up investigation.

Even when patients return to healthcare professionals multiple times with worsening symptoms, they often come away with the same diagnosis, or if they are not scanned with the right expertise, the results are inaccurately read.

Scans

Sarcomas are often missed on scans, either due to machines being misused or scans being misreported. This often means patients with sarcoma are incorrectly told that they don’t have cancer and are consequently diagnosed at a later stage, and less likely to be cured.

Public awareness

Despite 15 people in the UK being diagnosed with sarcoma every day, only 25% of the population know what sarcoma is, with even fewer people recognising its signs and symptoms.

This leads those with sarcoma not to recognise their symptoms as being potentially a cancer, and they book an appointment with the GP.

“…rare cancer isn’t that rare. Current data shows that 47% of cancers diagnosed are rare and less common cancers, and incidence statistics show that a GP practice in the UK will see a sarcoma around once every two years.”

– Jess Phillips MP

“…rare cancer isn’t that rare. Current data shows that 47% of cancers diagnosed are rare and less common cancers, and incidence statistics show that a GP practice in the UK will see a sarcoma around once every two years.”

– Jess Phillips MP

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