Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study to understand how people manage symptoms before they are diagnosed with cancer
This study looked at actions people take to manage symptoms before they are diagnosed with bowel or lung cancer.
More about this trial
The earlier cancer is found, the more easily it can be treated. So doctors are looking for ways to reduce delays in the
We know that sometimes people delay going to see their doctor when they have symptoms. But we don’t know what actions they take to manage these symptoms before they get medical help.
In this study, researchers wanted to find out what these actions are. And if it is possible for a community pharmacist to encourage people to get help earlier.
They asked people who have been diagnosed with bowel or lung cancer in the past year, to complete a questionnaire. It asked about what they did before they went to see their doctor.
The main aim of this study was to look at how people manage their symptoms before being diagnosed with bowel or lung cancer.
Summary of results
The research team concluded that people manage their symptoms by taking medications without medical supervision. But only a small amount of people buy their medications from a pharmacy.
The research team sent 608 questionnaires and a prepaid envelope, to people diagnosed with bowel or lung cancer in the last year.
220 completed questionnaires (38%) were returned. The questionnaires were completed by:
- 145 people with bowel cancer
- 75 people with lung cancer
The study team looked at the questionnaires from people who had taken actions to manage their symptoms (96 questionnaires). They found that 61 out of 96 people (about 64%) with bowel and lung cancer had managed their symptoms by taking medications. And they did so without medical help or supervision.
12 out of 96 people (about 13%) had bought their medications from a pharmacy. Of these people:
- 3 received advice from the pharmacist and were referred to their GP’s
- 1 just received advice from the pharmacist
- 6 were encouraged to take other actions if their symptoms didn’t resolve
- 2 didn’t answer this question
The study team found the amount of people who bought their medicines from a pharmacy was low. They think that pharmacists need to ask more about people’s symptoms. Asking about the early symptoms of cancer could reduce the delay on cancer diagnosis.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Mrs Frances Notman
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Pharmacy Research UK
University of Aberdeen