The latest national survey conducted by Kidney Cancer UK has revealed that up to 85% of patients having surveillance following kidney cancer surgery face Scanxiety (anxiety) through delays in receiving their scan results. 66% of patients are waiting at least three weeks after their scan, while an unacceptable 20% are waiting 8-weeks or more.
The survey also highlighted how almost half of those surveyed have little confidence their results will be shared within an acceptable time span following a scan.
Surgeon Commander Jonathan Perry, Consultant Radiologist, said;
Patients with kidney cancer should be told the result of their follow-up scans in a timely manner. That so many of the respondents to the survey had to wait so long for this vital information is very disappointing and must be an enormous source of anxiety for the patients and their families.
76 patients took part in the survey relating to the delivery of scan results for those undergoing monitoring following a full or partial kidney removal after a kidney cancer diagnosis.
The survey included anonymous comments from patients including: “It’s terribly unfair to have such lack of information and delays over something that affects a person’s physical and mental health directly.” and “Even though my treatment has finished the anxiety of having to wait so long for results is terrible. The fear of waiting to be told it’s not ok overtakes the good”. These comments show the extent to which patients living with cancer are deeply affected by these delays.
Kidney Cancer UK is calling on Urology departments across the NHS to consider how these delays affect their patients’ mental health and reduce the time they take to share scan results with patients.
Jonathan Perry continued;
There are two stages in the delivery of information where delay may occur. Outpatient clinics for urologists are very busy and often overbooked. Sometimes, if the appointment is ‘only’ to give reassuring information that a scan remains clear, patients will be bumped down the ladder by cases deemed more urgent – a new diagnosis perhaps, or where the news to be broken is not necessarily good.
One of the upsides to the COVID-19 pandemic has been the greater use of phone consultations by both GPs and hospital specialists, and these can certainly be used to speed up appointments in the outpatient system of the future, particularly where good news is to be given.
There are also delays in the reporting of surveillance scans by radiologists (the specialist doctors trained to read the scans and provide the reports). This is the discipline in which I work, and I am afraid that this specialty is grossly undermanned across the country. There is currently a shortfall of 33% in the manning levels of consultant radiologists (1). Nearly every radiology department has unfilled vacancies. A recent survey by the Royal College of Radiologists (1) concluded that ‘Without more consultants in training, investment in new models of care and better staff retention and recruitment, the UK’s radiologist shortfall is forecast to hit 44% (3,613 consultants) by 2025.’
If we are to address the problem of Scanxiety highlighted by Kidney Cancer UK’s survey, then we must press for greater provision of consultant radiologists, starting right now with an expansion of training places for young doctors interested in this vital branch of medicine.
Geraldine Fox, a patient of over seven years, is under surveillance and being scanned following kidney cancer surgery added;
With no adjuvant treatment available so far for kidney cancer, regular monitoring after surgery is vital to identify recurrence quickly and start treatment promptly when necessary. So, it is disappointing and concerning to know that many patients, like myself, regularly wait for two-months or more after scans to find out if the cancer has returned or not, and some feel forgotten or ignored. Delays in giving the results of our scans cause substantial, unnecessary anxiety and stress, and Urology staff need to be aware of the impact and keep delays to a minimum.
Nick Turkentine, CEO of Kidney Cancer UK concluded;
Cancer patients are under enough pressure through living with and beyond their diagnosis. The additional stress and anxiety brought on by having to wait such an unreasonable time for a scan result on the NHS is not acceptable. We have to ensure there is a limit on how long a patient should have to wait for these momentous scan results and end the culture of Scanxiety. And, in line with Jonathan Perry’s comment, we should ensure our NHS is fit for purpose, staffed correctly and rewarded fully.