A quarter of young people with cancer had to see their GP at least four times before finally being diagnosed by a specialist, experts have revealed.
Many were told they were simply suffering from growing pains, asthma or even faking their illness to skip school. A third were only referred to a specialist after their symptoms became so severe they went to A&E.
One in five sufferers aged 13 to 24 was never referred by their GP, even though they showed common signs of cancer such as weight loss, lumps or excruciating pain.
The findings by the Teenage Cancer Trust charity highlight how many patients in the early stages of cancer are being wrongly diagnosed by their family doctors, a delay that experts say costs thousands of lives.
As tumours are so rare in children, GPs often assume symptoms including tiredness, a sore throat or headache are harmless and will go away without treatment.
However, Britain has one of Europe’s worst cancer survival rates and experts claim 10,000 lives a year could be saved if diagnosis and treatment matched standards in France, Germany and Scandinavia.
Six out of 10 young people questioned felt their diagnosis could have been made quicker. Such delays significantly increase the stress and anxiety young people experience and in some cases they can affect their chances of survival.
The latest report, based on a survey of 400 patients, found 24 per cent were only sent to a cancer specialist after seeing their GP four times. Seventy per cent felt they had to wait too long for tests and hospital appointments and 61 per cent believed they could have been diagnosed sooner.
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