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Computer programme to help detect cancer risk

A new computer programme that predicts the risk of cancer in patients is to be adopted by doctors over the next five years.

Professor Mike Richards, the Department of Health's National Cancer Director, said the tailored programme can help doctors decide which patients need to be sent for urgent tests, used to spot the early signs of cancer.

Professor Richards added that the programme could save lives, leading to "better decision-making by GPs".

However, the final decision on referrals would still be the responsibility of GPs, with the programme acting as a guide.

It would measure risk factors such as age, weight and specific cancer symptoms like rectal bleeding. If a person was found to be at high risk, they could be referred for exploratory tests within a fortnight.

According to Professor Richards, only "a remarkable human brain" could retain all of the necessary information about cancer symptoms, as well as everything else GPs must remember. Therefore, he said: "Why not get computers to support it?

"The benefit of this will be that GPs will know who should be investigated and who shouldn't," he said.

"It will also help patients to know that whether they are being reassured, or referred, or getting a test, that is the right thing to do."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Department of Health

We asked if you think this will benefit patients. Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Yes, if patients are willing to go to their GP with symptoms. Having recently lost my father to cancer I don't think it will work unless people are willing to take responsibility for their own health and attend GP surgery when symptoms first apparent. Good for those who do" - Name and address supplied