Reports call for faster diagnosis of brain tumours

7 min read

Three new reports highlight the importance of faster diagnoses for brain tumour patients. 

The three publications, Brain Tumours: Fighting for Faster Diagnosis by The Brain Tumour Charity, the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Brain Group’s Position statement on early diagnosis of brain tumours, and Earlier, prompt or faster diagnosis of a brain tumour? from our sister charity, brainstrust, all closely examine the challenges faced by brain tumour patients on their journey to diagnosis. Each report also makes individual recommendations of changes to the current system to speed up diagnosis and access to care. 

At the heart of all three reports is an agreement that a faster diagnosis of a brain tumour is important for patients.  

A ‘faster diagnosis’ is when the time taken from when someone first notices symptoms or feels something is not right to the moment they have a definitive diagnosis is as quick as possible. This differs from ‘earlier diagnosis’ – a term used with many other cancers – which refers to someone being diagnosed at an earlier stage of their cancer and has links to a better chance of survival.   

The reports acknowledge that brain tumours are extremely complex and varied, and for some, an early diagnosis will most likely not change the course of the disease progression until new treatments are available. However, a faster, more prompt diagnosis means that treatment, care and support can be provided to patients and their families as soon as possible, which could lead to people living better lives after their diagnosis.   

In its report, the NCRI states that 22% of people diagnosed with a brain tumour visited the GP three or more times, while 32% visited twice before being referred for additional testing. In order to reduce these repeat appointments, which can undermine a patient's confidence in the healthcare system, as well as allow time for health decline, both the NCRI and The Brain Tumour Charity have made a significant number of actionable recommendations to improve the symptoms to diagnosis timeframe. They include recommendations such as: 

  • The Government must ensure there is appropriate funding going towards the development of clinical triage tools to detect brain tumours – The Brain Tumour Charity  
  • Primary care practitioners: The value of simple cognitive testing in suspicious headache should be recognised - NCRI  
  • There needs to be research into faster diagnosis to establish whether changes to pathways and practice result in improvement in time to diagnosis, improved patient outcomes and health economics - brainstrust 

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