Variation in suspected cancer referral pathways across the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership: a comparative analysis

Differences in primary care referral pathways for suspected cancer may contribute to why cancer outcomes continue to vary across countries. For the first time, this mixed methods study undertook a high level international comparison of cancer in primary care referral pathways. Referral pathway schematics for 10 countries within the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) were analysed. Schematics were extracted from existing ICBP data, supported by a working group of 11 primary care in cancer research experts from each country. Key differences between countries included flexibility of referral pathways, lack of clinical guidelines on referral pathways for non-specific symptoms, GP decision-making autonomy (whether referral justification of specialist triage of referrals was needed), direct access to further investigations and use of emergency routes. Further research into these variations in the referral pathways could illuminate their impact on delayed or missed cancer diagnoses in primary care – and importantly, how these pathways can be improved. Read the original article here.
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