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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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SCAN Pathway

Suspected CANcer (SCAN) pathway

Many patients visit their GP with 'vague' symptoms such as weight loss and tiredness. These symptoms are called 'non-specific' as they affect the whole person. Often the cause of these symptoms remains unclear after GP assessment. There is commonly a minor cause for such symptoms. However, there is a small chance that they could be the signs of a serious illness, such as cancer. Therefore, these symptoms are often called 'low-risk but not no-risk' symptoms.

At present, GPs do not have a way to get rapid investigations for patients with 'non-specific' symptoms. This means that patients can go back and forth between their GP and the hospital many times until a diagnosis is made. It can take time for these investigations and appointments to be arranged. As a result it can take a long time before the patient is diagnosed and treatment can begin. Although the risk of serious disease is low, a delay in diagnosis and treatment may have a negative effect on the patients' health and overall wellbeing.

The Radiology department at the Churchill Hospital is involved in the second phase of a programme called ACE (Accelerate, Co-ordinate, Evaluate). We have been working closely with other clinical groups who are keen to improve cancer care, to design a new diagnostic pathway for patients in Oxfordshire with 'non-specific' symptoms, known as 'low-risk but not no-risk'.

This ACE pathway involves rapid access to Computed Tomography (CT) and laboratory tests (blood and faeces tests), with possible further tests if needed and an appointment with a specialist working in a Multi-diagnostic Centre, dependant on the test results. The aim is to reach a diagnosis and be able to begin treatment faster than at present.

Please view the SCAN Pathway flow chart via the link below.

SCAN Pathway flow chart


"One of the reasons we are running this project is because we diagnose late in this country, the later we diagnose, the harder cancer is to treat. If we can diagnose earlier we can potentially save a lot of lives and enhance the quality of lives"