Editorials

Symptoms of possible oncological significance: separating the wheat from the chaff

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7375.1254 (Published 30 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1254

The solution lies in a collaborative study of symptoms in the community

  1. Nicholas Summerton, senior lecturer (N.Summerton@hull.ac.uk)
  1. Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Hull, Willerby HU10 6NS

    Symptoms are a common experience for all humans and are rarely synonymous with a particular disease. In the United Kingdom people are often encouraged to consult their general practitioner, and general practitioners are often advised to refer patients to secondary care according to the presence of one or more symptoms. Much of the evidence for this is based on the patterns of symptoms in patients with serious or important illnesses that are encountered by specialist clinicians.1 The discriminant value of a symptom is related not only to the specific properties of that symptom but also to the characteristics of the setting and the population encountered.2 An urgent requirement exists for attendance and referral practices to be based on data generated from epidemiological studies of symptoms in community settings.

    Failing to respond to potentially serious illness accurately and efficiently can have adverse consequences for the delivery of high quality …

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