Referral to a specialist

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist if you have symptoms that could be due to cancer. Depending on your symptoms and other factors, this might be an urgent referral.

Seeing your GP

It can be hard for GPs to decide who might have cancer and who may 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.

UK Referral Guidelines

There are guidelines for GPs to help them decide who needs a referral.

Some of the UK nations have targets around how quickly you’ll be seen. In England an urgent referral means that you should see a specialist within 2 weeks.

This 2 week time limit does not exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But wherever you live, you are seen as quickly as possible.

Some specialists have expertise in a rare cancer type or rare sub type. Most people with suspected cancer are first referred to their local cancer specialist. Your local cancer specialist will discuss what to do next if you are diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.

They might refer you on to another cancer doctor who has expertise with your type of cancer. Or they will get advice from them on how to treat you. 

If you're still worried

For symptoms that haven't gone away after a few weeks, go back to see your GP.

Some people are worried that their GP is not taking their symptoms seriously. It might help to make another appointment to talk things through with them. 

Write down your symptoms and take it with you to your GP appointment.  You may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.  

For information and support, you can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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