A Leamington GP has labelled a report which highlighted a link between sore throats and cancer as an “irresponsible scare story”.
Dr Jeff Foster, of TFJ Private GP Services in Leamington, has spoken out following the publishing of a study commissioned by the University of Exeter, which was reported by BBC News.
He fears the publicity will lead to even more pressure on GPs and the NHS at a time of year when sore throats are common across the country.
The research, which was published in the British Journal of General Practice, recommended that GPs with patients who have a persistent sore throat, combined with shortness of breath, trouble swallowing or earache, should consider cancer as the cause.
Dr Foster said: “The article was a shocking scare story and terribly mistimed, too.
“They clearly hadn’t thought about the implications this could have for GPs and primary care in this country.
“The majority of calls to GPs at this time of year are people with coughs, sore throats and colds and it was irresponsible to add this story into the mix when the pressure on primary care is already massive.”
Dr Foster said there can be a link between a prolonged, persistent sore throat and throat cancer but encouraged people to focus on the official NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines on the issue and common sense.
He said: “The vast majority of sore throats are simply down to a viral infection, so we don’t want anyone automatically thinking they might have cancer.
“The NICE guidelines are very clear – it is a two-week referral process.
If a sore throat persists for longer than three weeks and we do not feel it is infective, or due to any obvious other cause, then a GP can refer the case to a specialist to check for cancer of the larynx.
“It is important to empower people to visit their GP when they feel something is wrong but, equally, we shouldn’t seek to alarm people unnecessarily.”