Community pharmacies can play active part in early cancer diagnosis, RPS report says

In its report, ‘Utilising community pharmacists to support people with cancer’, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said community pharmacies are a convenient place for people to present with early stage cancer symptoms.

Pharmacy signage

Making community pharmacy an “active part of the referral pathway” for patients with symptoms of cancer could reduce waiting times for diagnosis and lead to earlier treatment, according to a Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) report.

Utilising community pharmacists to support people with cancer’, published on 10 January 2020, describes community pharmacies as a “convenient and accessible place for people to present with symptoms that they may be concerned about”. 

In the report, the RPS said patients could often be put off from seeing their healthcare professional about early-stage symptoms because of a lack of awareness or a “mental paralysis” from the fear of diagnosis, with community pharmacy offering ”a ready-made support and patient advocacy network” for these patients.

It added that community pharmacists could offer human papillomavirus vaccination and mole screening services; encourage people to take up screening for bowel and other cancers, and directly refer patients with appropriate symptoms for chest X-rays — without first needing a referral to the GP practice.

The report was launched ahead of the 2020 RPS and University College London (UCL) School of Pharmacy New Year Lecture on ‘Controlling Cancer in the 2020s’ delivered by Mark Emberton, dean of UCL’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, on 9 January 2020. 

Emberton’s lecture focused on prostate cancer, making several predictions for the coming decade. These included the potential for five-minute MRI scans and advances in theranostics, in which imaging-based diagnosis and therapy are combined in a single system.

UCL also published a report alongside the lecture, ‘Cancer Policy Update: Agenda for the 2020s’, supporting a call for community pharmacies to become early diagnosis hubs to improve cancer prevention and early detection.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, January 2020;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20207571