People with colorectal cancer can show clinical features and abnormal bloods as early as 9-10 months before diagnosis

BJGP Interviews

14-06-2022 • 14 mins


In this episode we talk to Dr Yin Zhou who is a GP and Clinical Research Fellow at the Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, at the University of Cambridge. Paper: Pre-diagnostic clinical features and blood tests in patients with colorectal cancer: a retrospective linked data study https://doi.org/10.3399/BJGP.2021.0563 (https://doi.org/10.3399/BJGP.2021.0563) Understanding pre-diagnostic patterns of relevant clinical features and abnormal blood test results in patients with colon and rectal cancer could elucidate windows of opportunity during which more timely investigations and referrals could be performed, and earlier diagnosis of cancer could be achieved. We found that consultation rates increased in the year leading up to diagnosis for relevant clinical features such as low haemoglobin, rectal bleeding and change in bowel habits, as well as non-specific blood tests, from as early as 9-10 months before diagnosis. Our findings suggest that potential opportunities for more timely use of cancer investigations or referral exist, and could improve diagnostic pathways, expediting diagnosis and treatment for some patients with colorectal cancer.