Introduction The ultimate goal of the UK Cancer plan is to ‘offer patients a maximum one month wait from an urgent referral for suspected cancer to the beginning of treatment’. The North London Cancer Network has devised and implemented a suspected cancer referral form for Primary Care Practitioners for patients to be seen within two weeks of referral to secondary care. One group referred on the suspected upper GI cancer referral form is patients unexplained iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) without other symptoms. Whilst IDA is a recognised finding in upper GI cancer we hypothesise that it is a rare presentation of upper GI cancer in the absence of other symptoms.
Methods The aim of this study is to assess the presenting symptoms in patients diagnosed with upper GI cancer when endoscopy is performed for anaemia as the primary indication. A single centre, retrospective analysis of all patients undergoing endoscopy for IDA from August 2008 for 5 years at a District General Hospital in North London was performed. Data was collected using electronic patient records and unisoft endoscopy database. Those diagnosed with upper GI cancer were scrutinised for presence of symptoms in addition to anaemia at presentation.
Results Over the study period, 1529 patients were gastroscoped for IDA, and 1228 colonoscopied for IDA. 20 upper GI cancers (16 stomach, 4 oesophageal) were detected during the study. No patients with upper GI cancer had IDA alone with addition symptoms including weight loss (9 patients), malaena (3), dysphagia (3), abdominal pain (2), anorexia (2), abnormal CT scan (2), altered bowel habit (2). Other benign diagnosis at gastroscopy in anaemic patients included: Barrett’s oesophagus (52), oesophagitis (159), oesophageal varices (11), gastric erosions (27), gastritis (438), pyloric stenosis (2), angiodysplasia (20), duodenal ulcer (35), duodenitis (139). In the group colonoscopied for anaemia findings included: Normal in 550, 66 had colorectal cancer, polyps in 173, angiodysplasia in 33, and IBD in 16.
Conclusion From this study we conclude that upper GI cancer is diagnosed on gastroscopy in only 1.3% of patients presenting with IDA. When Upper GI cancer is diagnosis in IDA it is always associated with an additional symptom such as weight loss, anorexia, dysphagia, malaena or an abnormal CT scan. Patients should not be referred with IDA on a suspected upper GI cancer referral form unless accompanied by additional alarm features. If a patient has isolated IDA and cancer is suspected a diagnostic colonoscopy is more rewarding than a gastroscopy and it is more appropriate to refer these patients to the colorectal cancer pathway. If similar findings are replicated than National guidelines should be informed and altered accordingly.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared.