Reimagining the diagnostic pathway for gastrointestinal cancer.

12 Mar 2018

A crisis is looming for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancers, one grounded only partly in the steady increase in their overall incidence. Public demand for diagnostic tests to be undertaken early and at lower levels of risk is reflected in early diagnosis being a widely held policy objective for reasons of both clinical outcome and patient experience. In the UK, urgent referrals for suspected lower gastrointestinal cancer have increased by 78% in the past 6 years, with parallel increases in endoscopy and imaging activity. Such growth in demand is unsustainable with current models of care. If gastrointestinal cancer diagnosis is to be affordable, the roles of professionals and their interactions with each other will need to be reframed while retaining public confidence in the process. In this Perspective, we consider how the relationship between medical specialists and generalists could be redefined to make better use of the skills of each while delivering optimal clinical outcomes and a good patient experience.