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Understanding how to diagnose cancer earlier in children.

In 2012, more UK children died from cancer than any other disease. But for GPs and parents, cancer is still an extremely rare disease, and many of the symptoms that children have in the early stage of their cancer are indistinguishable from common ailments. This makes it very challenging for parents and GPs to recognise cancer, particularly in its early stages. This can lead to delays in diagnosing cancer in children, and delays in referring to hospital for urgent treatment.

We are conducting research into the sequence and development of early symptoms of childhood cancer, to identify “red flags” that would be useful markers of early recognition of childhood cancer. This is a collaborative stream of research with Paediatric Oncologists in Oxford and Birmingham. We are also looking at where we can improve on recognition, and to identify other causes of diagnostic delay:

  • Leukaemia.  This study involves interviews with parents and GPs of children newly diagnosed with leukaemia.
  • Brain tumours. We will soon begin a study involving interviews with parents and GPs of children newly diagnosed with brain tumour.