Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
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Saab, MM;O'Driscoll, M;FitzGerald, S;Sahm, LJ;Leahy-Warren, P;Noonan, B;Kilty, C;O'Malley, M;Lyons, N;Burns, HE;Kennedy, U;Lyng, A;Hegarty, J
Health promotion international
Referring patients with suspected lung cancer: a qualitative study with primary healthcare professionals in Ireland
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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death globally. Most cases are diagnosed late. Primary healthcare professionals are often the first point of contact for symptoms of concern. This study explored primary healthcare professionals' experience of referring individuals with signs and symptoms suggestive of lung cancer along the appropriate healthcare pathway and explored strategies to help primary healthcare professionals detect lung cancer early. Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with 36 general practitioners, community pharmacists, practice nurses, and public health nurses. Data were analysed thematically. Participants identified typical lung cancer signs and symptoms such as cough and coughing up blood (i.e., haemoptysis) as triggers for referral. Atypical/non-specific signs and symptoms such as back pain, pallor, and abnormal blood tests were perceived as difficult to interpret. Participants often refrained from using the word 'cancer' during conversations with patients. Ireland's Rapid Access Lung Clinics were perceived as underused, with some general practitioners referring patients to these clinics only when clear and definitive lung cancer signs and symptoms are noted. Lack of communication and the resulting disruption in continuity of care for patients with suspected lung cancer were highlighted as healthcare system flaws. Education on early referral can be in the form of communications from professional organizations, webinars, interdisciplinary meetings, education by lung specialists, and patient testimonials. Lung cancer referral checklists and algorithms should be simple, clear, and visually appealing, either developed as standalone tools or embedded into existing primary care software/programmes.
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