This guidance covers the referral of a patient who presents with symptoms of lung cancer should be referred to a team specialising in the management of lung cancer, depending on local arrangements.
GPs can refer a patient they suspect of having cancer to be seen within 14 days by a specialist. GPs must send the referral within 24 hours of the decision to refer.
Please use the referral forms listed on this page to ensure appropriateness. They have been agreed by the Peninsula Cancer Network.
Last updated: 25-03-2021
Top tips in lung cancer - updated Nov 2020
- Lung cancer appears to be more difficult to detect via remote/phone/video/e-consultations than through face to face interactions. Always proactively ask about risk factors and other lung cancer symptoms in patients presenting with respiratory illness, and beware the patient presenting more than once with non resolving symptoms.
- Follow NG12 recommendations for requesting a CXR- any unexplained suggestive symptom or sign in a smoker or ex-smoker >40 should lead to a chest X-ray. 2 or more suggestive symptoms in never smokers should lead to a chest Xray
- 25% of CXRs are normal in lung cancer - if you remain concerned about a possible lung cancer, refer on 2WW lung cancer pathway. Threshold of concern is elevated by presence of risk factors, multiple symptoms, persistent symptoms, severe symptoms or unexplained symptoms.
- Thrombocytosis is a risk factor for lung cancer
- Follow NG12 recommendations for referring on 2WW lung pathway
- Code everyone’s smoking status and include if they could be a passive smoker by living with a smoker- at least ten percent of patients with lung cancer have never smoked.
- Ensure if you have e-consult and smoking status is recorded on the submission that admin can code smoking status as this is not automatically pulled through.
- Don’t assume coughs lasting more than 3 weeks are due to COVID, request a CXR if they haven’t had one recently.
- Lung cancer is a disease of deprivation and associated with high smoking prevalence. Identify if a patient is high risk for lung cancer, don’t assume breathlessness is COPD alone and check if they have had a CXR
- Weight loss or constitutional symptoms such as fevers or sweats are worrying features in association with the features above and warrant urgent referral.
- Patients referred with suspected lung cancer will require an urgent CT scan of the chest and upper abdomen with i.v. contrast. To avoid the risk of contrast nephropathy, please include an eGFR within the past 3 months or confirm a blood test has been sent.
- Patients with transient haemoptysis in the setting of a chest infection, who have a normal CXR, have a low probability of having lung cancer (c. 1%)
An urgent referral for a chest x-ray should be made when a patient presents with:
- haemoptysis, or unexplained or persistent (that is, lasting more than 3 weeks) symptoms and signs:
- chest and/or shoulder pain
- weight loss
- chest signs
- finger clubbing
- cervical and/or supraclavicular lymphadenopathy
- cough, with or without any of the above
- features suggestive of metastasis from a lung cancer (for example, secondary's in the brain, bone, liver or skin)
- underlying chronic respiratory problems with unexplained changes in existing symptoms
An urgent referral for a chest X-ray or to a team specialising in the management of lung cancer should be made as for other patients but may be considered sooner, for example if symptoms or signs have lasted for less than 3 weeks.
Northern locality >
2 week wait >
- First line
- Second line