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Persistent sore throat could be larynx cancer warning

Posted on March 18th 2019

A study of more than 800 patients diagnosed with cancer of the larynx has found more than a five per cent risk of cancer from a persistent sore throat when combined with other apparently low-level symptoms. Led by the University of Exeter and co-authored by Professor Willie Hamilton, of the University of Exeter Medical School, the study suggests that GPs should consider larynx cancer when patients report a persistent sore throat when combined with shortness of breath, problems swallowing or earache.

Professor Hamilton says “This research matters – when NICE guidance for cancer investigation was published there was no evidence from GP practices to guide this – nor to inform GPs. Crucially, hoarseness serious enough to be reported to GPs does warrant investigation. Furthermore, our research has shown the potential severity of some symptom combinations previously thought to be low-risk and potentially mistaken for a virus."

The research, funded by NIHR and published in BJGP aims to facilitate earlier detection of cancer, which is key in getting the best survival rates and health outcomes for patients. Research was conducted using patient records for more than 600 GP practices as part of the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

Each year, more than 1,700 people were diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Of those, 80 per cent were male. The number has risen by almost a third over the past 20 years, with tobacco and alcohol use strongly linked to the disease.

The full paper is entitled ‘Recognising laryngeal cancer in primary care: a large case–control study using electronic records’.

Professor Willie Hamilton has recently been awarded a CBE for his contribution to life-saving cancer diagnosis in the UK. The award was announced in the New Year’s Honours List in December and Professor Hamilton has been to collect his award from Buckingham Palace. He said “It is an absolute honour to have received this CBE, which is recognition of my whole team at Exeter. It’s so gratifying to have made a real impact on cancer survival rates in the UK. We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead.”
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