Using linked data to examine diagnostic testing for cancer in primary care

Who is involved?

Project Summary

In Australia, the first point of contact with healthcare services is General Practice. As in the United Kingdom, Australian GP’s are gatekeepers to further medical investigation. However, determining the most appropriate course of action for patients is not straightforward.

A GP must assess individual need based on symptom profile, medical history and risk level. In Australia, GP’s can arrange ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI’s at no cost to patients. This also results in patients having a full work up prior to specialist review.

Many cancer symptoms are common, often self-limiting or associated with other conditions. Symptoms such as fatigue or abdominal pain are innocuous. Most patients presenting with such symptoms will not have cancer. Further investigation may result in invasive procedures, are likely to increase costs and place excess pressure on finite health resources.

Use of specific tests in a primary care setting differs between Australia and the UK. This provides a unique opportunity to assess their impact on patient outcomes, their accuracy in a primary care population and the cost-benefit associated with their use.

This project will assess patterns of use and the diagnostic accuracy of various tests including, for example, CA125 for the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and the applicability of using FIT (a test for blood in the stools) in symptomatic patients.

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