Published: 30/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5807 Page 8

Cancer specialists at London's King's College Hospital say all women with suspected breast cancer should be seen within two weeks and not just those classified as 'urgent'by their GPs.The call follows research showing GPs frequently refer women with breast cancer as 'non-urgent', meaning they wait up to three months to see a specialist.This delay can be critical.The study published in this week's British Medical Journal examined 3,597 referrals to the symptomatic breast clinic between April 1999 and December 2000, of which 665 were marked as urgent and 2,932 as non-urgent. In the urgent group 62 had cancer, but in the non-urgent group the number was 49.Consultant surgeon Jonathon Roberts and his team say the pressure to meet the two-week waiting time for urgent cases is being met at the expense of nonurgent cases, who have to wait longer, and this two-tier system should be abandoned.This can be achieved through organisation rather than resource allocation, they add.