Discovery publications:
2016  /  2015  /  2014  /  2013  /  2012
Discovery related publications:
2015   /   2014   /   2013

Discovery publications - 2012

Stapley S, Peters TJ, Neal RD, Rose PW, Walter FM, Hamilton W. The risk of oesophago-gastric cancer in symptomatic patients in primary care: a large case-control study using electronic records. Br J Cancer. 2013 Jan 15;108(1):25-31. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2012.551. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Background: Over 15,000 new oesophago-gastric cancers are diagnosed annually in the United Kingdom, with most being advanced disease. We identified and quantified features of this cancer in primary care.

Methods: Case-control study using electronic primary-care records of the UK patients aged ≥=40 years was performed. Cases with primary oesophago-gastric cancer were matched to controls on age, sex and practice. Putative features of cancer were identified in the year before diagnosis. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated for these features using conditional logistic regression, and positive predictive values (PPVs) were calculated.

Results: A total of 7471 cases and 32 877 controls were studied. Sixteen features were independently associated with oesophago-gastric cancer (all P<0.001): dysphagia, OR 139 (95% confidence interval 112-173); reflux, 5.7 (4.8-6.8); abdominal pain, 2.6 (2.3-3.0); epigastric pain, 8.8 (7.0-11.0); dyspepsia, 6 (5.1-7.1); nausea and/or vomiting, 4.9 (4.0-6.0); constipation, 1.5 (1.2-1.7); chest pain, 1.6 (1.4-1.9); weight loss, 8.9 (7.1-11.2); thrombocytosis, 2.4 (2.0-2.9); low haemoglobin, 2.4 (2.1-2.7); low MCV, 5.2 (4.2-6.4); high inflammatory markers, 1.7 (1.4-2.0); raised hepatic enzymes, 1.3 (1.2-1.5); high white cell count, 1.4 (1.2-1.7); and high cholesterol, 0.8 (0.7-0.8). The only PPV >5% in patients ≥55 years was for dysphagia. In patients <55 years, all PPVs were <1%.

Conclusion: Symptoms of oesophago-gastric cancer reported in secondary care were also important in primary care. The results should inform guidance and commissioning policy for upper GI endoscopy.

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Shephard EA, Stapley S, Neal RD, Rose P, Walter FM, Hamilton WT. Clinical features of bladder cancer in primary care. Br J Gen Pract 2012; DOI: 10.3399/bjgp12X654560.


BACKGROUND: Bladder cancer accounts for over 150,000 deaths worldwide. No screening is available, so diagnosis depends on investigations of symptoms. Of these, only visible haematuria has been studied in primary care.

AIM: To identify and quantify the features of bladder cancer in primary care.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Case-control study, using electronic medical records from UK primary care.

METHOD: Participants were 4915 patients aged ≥40 years, diagnosed with bladder cancer January 2000 to December 2009, and 21,718 age, sex, and practice-matched controls, were selected from the General Practice Research Database, UK. All clinical features independently associated with bladder cancer using conditional logistic regression were identified, and their positive predictive values for bladder cancer, singly and in combination, were estimated.

RESULTS: Cases consulted their GP more frequently than controls before diagnosis: median 15 consultations (interquartile range 9-22) versus 8 (4-15): P<0.001. Seven features were independently associated with bladder cancer: visible haematuria, odds ratio 34 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 29 to 41), dysuria 4.1 (95% CI = 3.4 to 5.0), urinary tract infection 2.2 (95% CI = 2.0 to 2.5), raised white blood cell count 2.1 (95% CI = 1.6 to 2.8), abdominal pain 2.0 (95% CI = 1.6 to 2.4), constipation 1.5 (95% CI = 1.2 to 1.9), raised inflammatory markers 1.5 (95% CI = 1.2 to 1.9), and raised creatinine 1.3 (95% CI = 1.2 to 1.4). The positive predictive value for visible haematuria in patients aged ≥60 years was PPV of 2.6% (95% CI = 2.2 to 3.2).

CONCLUSION: Visible haematuria is the commonest and most powerful predictor of bladder cancer in primary care, and warrants investigation. Most other previously reported features of bladder cancer were associated with the disease, but with low predictive values. There is a need for improved diagnostic methods, for those patients whose bladder cancer presents without visible haematuria.

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Stapley S, Peters TJ, Neal RD, Rose PW, Walter FM, Hamilton W. The risk of pancreatic cancer in symptomatic patients in primary care: a large case-control study using electronic records. Br J Cancer. 2012 May 22. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2012.190. [Epub ahead of print]


Background: Over 8000 new pancreatic cancers are diagnosed annually in the UK; most at an advanced stage, with only 3% 5-year survival. We aimed to identify and quantify the risk of pancreatic cancer for features in primary care.

Methods: A case-control study using electronic primary care records identified and quantified the features of pancreatic cancer. Cases, aged ≥40 in the General Practice Research Database, UK, with primary pancreatic cancer were matched with controls on age, sex and practice. Putative features of pancreatic cancer were identified in the year before diagnosis. Odds ratios (OR) were calculated for features of cancer using conditional logistic regression. Positive predictive values (PPV) were calculated for consulting patients.

Results: In all, 3635 cases and 16 459 controls were studied. Nine features were associated with pancreatic cancer (all P<0.001 except for back pain, P=0.004); jaundice, OR 1000 (95% confidence interval (CI) 4 302 500); abdominal pain, 5 (4.4, 5.6); nausea/vomiting, 4.5 (3.5, 5.7); back pain, 1.4 (1.1, 1.7); constipation, 2.2 (1.7, 2.8); diarrhoea, 1.9 (1.5, 2.5); weight loss, 15 (11, 22); malaise, 2.4 (1.6, 3.5); new-onset diabetes 2.1 (1.7, 2.5). Positive predictive values for patients aged ≥60 were <1%, apart from jaundice at 22% (95% CI 14, 52), though several pairs of symptoms had PPVs >1%.

Conclusion: Most previously reported symptoms of pancreatic cancer were also relevant in primary care. Although predictive values were small - apart from jaundice - they provide a basis for selection of patients for investigation, especially with multiple symptoms.

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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.