Patients who visit their GPs with a persistent sore throat should be considered for larynx cancer, a study suggests.

A sore throat combined with shortness of breath, problems swallowing or earache is a greater warning sign of laryngeal cancer than hoarseness alone, new research concludes.

A study of more than 800 patients diagnosed with cancer of the larynx found more than a five per cent risk of cancer when these symptoms showed, compared to 2.7 per cent for hoarseness alone.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines currently recommend investigation for persistent hoarseness or an unexplained neck lump.

But the findings from the University of Exeter gives greater insight into the combinations of symptoms GPs should be alert to when deciding who should be investigated for cancer.

Professor Willie Hamilton, who co-wrote the study, said: ‘This research matters – when Nice guidance for cancer investigation was published there was no evidence from GP practices to guide this, nor to inform GPs.

‘Crucially, hoarseness serious enough to be reported to GPs does warrant investigation.

‘Furthermore, our research has shown the potential severity of some symptom combinations previously thought to be low-risk.’

The research, published in the British Journal of General Practice, was carried out using patient records from more than 600 GP practices as part of the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

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