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Referral to a specialist

Find out when GPs refer people to a specialist.

Urgent referral

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to cancer. This is called an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who may have cancer and who might have a more minor condition. For some symptoms, your doctor may ask you to wait to see if the symptoms get better or respond to treatment, such as antibiotics.

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral for a possible cancer. However as carcinoid tumours are rare and their symptoms can be so varied there aren't specific referral guidelines for carcinoid. Some carcinoid symptoms are the same as for other types of cancer.

Your specialist

Your doctor looks at your symptoms and decides what specialist to refer you to. For example, for symptoms of bowel or stomach problems, you see a gastroenterologist or a gastrointestinal surgeon. For symptoms related to your breathing, you see a chest or respiratory specialist.

What to expect

Your specialist:

  • asks about your medical history and symptoms
  • examines you

They also arrange any tests that you need. These will depend on your symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with carcinoid, your specialist will refer you to a team of doctors who have expertise in treating neuroendocrine tumours.

Last reviewed: 
24 May 2016
  • Suspected cancer: recognition and referral
    National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), June 2015

  • Scottish referral guidelines for suspected cancer
    Healthcare Improvement Scotland, May 2014

  • Guidelines for the management of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine (including carcinoid) tumours (NETs)
    JK Ramage and others
    Gut 2012, Volume 61, Issue 1

  • Pulmonary neuroendocrine (carcinoid) tumors: European Neuroendocrine Tumor Society expert consensus and recommendations for best practice for typical and atypical pulmonary carcinoids
    ME Caplin and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2015. Volume 26, Issue 8

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