Discovery publications:
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Discovery related publications:
2015   /   2014   /   2013

Discovery related publications - 2013

These are publications derived from Discovery research data and databases and/ or research collaborations with other research staff outside the Discovery programme.

24th December 2013

Neal RD, Din NU, Hamilton W, Ukoumunne OC, Carter B, Stapley S, Rubin G. Discovery Comparison of cancer diagnostic intervals before and after implementation of NICE guidelines: analysis of data from the UK General Practice Research Database. Br J Cancer. 2014 Feb 4;110(3):584-92. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.791. Epub 2013 Dec 24.



The primary aim was to use routine data to compare cancer diagnostic intervals before and after implementation of the 2005 NICE Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer. The secondary aim was to compare change in diagnostic intervals across different categories of presenting symptoms.


Using data from the General Practice Research Database, we analysed patients with one of 15 cancers diagnosed in either 2001-2002 or 2007-2008. Putative symptom lists for each cancer were classified into whether or not they qualified for urgent referral under NICE guidelines. Diagnostic interval (duration from first presented symptom to date of diagnosis in primary care records) was compared between the two cohorts.


In total, 37 588 patients had a new diagnosis of cancer and of these 20 535 (54.6%) had a recorded symptom in the year prior to diagnosis and were included in the analysis. The overall mean diagnostic interval fell by 5.4 days (95% CI: 2.4-8.5; P<0.001) between 2001-2002 and 2007-2008. There was evidence of significant reductions for the following cancers: (mean, 95% confidence interval) kidney (20.4 days, -0.5 to 41.5; P=0.05), head and neck (21.2 days, 0.2-41.6; P=0.04), bladder (16.4 days, 6.6-26.5; P 0.001), colorectal (9.0 days, 3.2-14.8; P=0.002), oesophageal (13.1 days, 3.0-24.1; P=0.006) and pancreatic (12.6 days, 0.2-24.6; P=0.04). Patients who presented with NICE-qualifying symptoms had shorter diagnostic intervals than those who did not (all cancers in both cohorts). For the 2007-2008 cohort, the cancers with the shortest median diagnostic intervals were breast (26 days) and testicular (44 days); the highest were myeloma (156 days) and lung (112 days). The values for the 90th centiles of the distributions remain very high for some cancers. Tests of interaction provided little evidence of differences in change in mean diagnostic intervals between those who did and did not present with symptoms specifically cited in the NICE Guideline as requiring urgent referral.


We suggest that the implementation of the 2005 NICE Guidelines may have contributed to this reduction in diagnostic intervals between 2001-2002 and 2007-2008. There remains considerable scope to achieve more timely cancer diagnosis, with the ultimate aim of improving cancer outcomes.

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1st September 2013

Walker S, Hyde C, Hamilton W. Risk of uterine cancer in symptomatic women in primary care: case-control study using electronic records. Br J Gen Pract. 2013 Sep;63(614):e643-8. doi: 10.3399/bjgp13X671632.


Uterine cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women in the UK, with approximately 7700 new diagnoses and 1700 deaths annually.


To identify and quantify features of uterine cancer in primary care.


Case-control study using electronic primary care records in primary care in the UK.


Putative features of uterine cancer were identified in the year before diagnosis, and odds ratios (ORs) calculated using conditional logistic regression. Positive predictive values (PPVs) were calculated for women who consulted.


A total of 2732 women aged =40 years with uterine cancer between 2000 and 2009, and 9537 age-, sex- and practice-matched controls were selected from the General Practice Research Database. The median age at diagnosis was 67 years. Nine features were significantly associated with uterine cancer: postmenopausal bleeding (OR = 160; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 100 to 240), excessive vaginal bleeding (OR = 22; 95% CI = 12 to 42), irregular menstruation (OR = 42; 95% CI = 27 to -63), vaginal discharge (OR = 14; 95% CI = 10 to 21), haematuria (OR = 8.7; 95% CI = 5.0 to 15), abdominal pain (OR = 2.0; 95% CI = 1.4 to 2.8), low haemoglobin (OR = 2.1; 95% CI = 1.5 to 2.9), raised platelets (OR = 1.5; 95% CI = 1.0 to 2.3), and raised glucose (OR = 1.4; 95% CI = 1.1 to 1.8); all P<0.01, other than raised platelets, P = 0.05 and raised glucose, P = 0.02. In the year before diagnosis, 1725 (63%) cases had a record of abnormal vaginal bleeding compared to 135 (1%) controls. The PPV of uterine cancer with postmenopausal bleeding was 4%, and was higher in women with multiple or repeated symptoms.


This study confirms the importance of several features, particularly postmenopausal bleeding, for uterine cancer. Haematuria is an important risk marker. The results of this study may inform GPs in the selection of women for investigation and should assist the NICE in their update of GP referral guidance.

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13th January 2013

Taylor A, Stapley S, Hamilton W. Jaundice in primary care: a cohort study of adults aged >45 years using electronic medical records. Fam Pract. 2012 Aug;29(4):416-20. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmr118. Epub 2012 Jan 13.


Background: Jaundice is a rare but important symptom of malignant and benign conditions. When patients present in primary care, understanding the relative likelihood of different disease processes can help GPs to investigate and refer patients appropriately.

Objective: To identify and quantify the various causes of jaundice in adults presenting in primary care.

Design: Historical cohort study using electronic primary care records.

Setting: UK General Practice Research Database.

Methods: Participants (186 814 men and women) aged >45 years with clinical events recorded in primary care records between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2007. Data were searched for episodes of jaundice and explanatory diagnoses identified within the subsequent 12 months. If no diagnosis was found, the patient's preceding medical record was searched for relevant chronic diseases.

Results: From the full cohort, 277 patients had at least one record of jaundice between 1 January 2005 and 31 December 2006. Ninety-two (33%) were found to have bile duct stones; 74 (27%) had an explanatory cancer [pancreatic cancer 34 (12%), cholangiocarcinoma 13 (5%) and other diagnosed primary malignancy 27 (10%)]. Liver disease attributed to excess alcohol explained 26 (9%) and other diagnoses were identified in 24 (9%). Sixty-one (22%) had no diagnosis related to jaundice recorded.

Conclusion: Although the most common cause of jaundice is bile duct stones, cancers are present in over a quarter of patients with jaundice in this study, demonstrating the importance of urgent investigation into the underlying cause.

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10th February 2016

New Discovery Research publication

The SYMPTOM Study team's research into symptom appraisal for colorectal cancer has been published in BMJ Open. This is a unique piece of research which compares the appraisal and help seeking experiences of patients with colorectal cancer symptoms who go on to have cancer and those who turn out to have non-cancer conditions. The research did not identify any clear differences between the two groups but did identify important barriers to presentation around the ‘private nature’ of colorectal symptoms which will prove useful to policy makers and the design of awareness campaigns. To read more about the research paper see the results section here.

9th June 2015

Discovery conference slides available & new research publications

The Discovery Programme held its research conference at the Royal College of General Practitioners on June 2nd 2015. The team presented their research findings and outlined the impact of the programme to a wide range of patient groups, clinicians, policy makers, researchers and journalists. The PowerPoint slides used during the presentation have been uploaded to this website and can be viewed here.

There are also 2 new research papers to report. Chantal Balasooriya-Smeekens has published the literature review of her PhD in Psycho-Oncology, "The role of emotions in time to presentation for symptoms suggestive of cancer: a systematic review of quantitative studies". Abstract and publication details are here and further papers from Chantal's PhD will be published soon.

Nafees Din has published a new paper under the Discovery related research umbrella. The paper uses Discovery data drawn from the CAPER (theme 2) studies and considers "Age and Gender Variations in Cancer Diagnostic Intervals in 15 Cancers". Full publication details and abstract can be found here.