Pioneering liver cancer detection trial in Devon

Torbay GPs are taking part in the programme
Torbay GPs are taking part in the programme -Credit:PA

A new liver cancer detection pilot is being launched in some Torbay GP practices. The NHS England pilot programme involves patients who fall into one of the ‘high-risk’ categories

The early-detection programme aims to diagnose liver cancer at an early stage. The programme involves patients aged over 16 who are registered with one of the participating practices.

The practices taking part are Brunel Medical Practice, Chelston Hall Surgery, Croft Hall Medical Practice and Southover Medical Practice. Together these form the Torquay Primary Care Network (PCN).


To be eligible for the programme, patients must fall within one of the ‘high-risk’ groups:

  • Diagnosed with alcohol-related liver disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

  • Diagnosed with hepatitis C, hepatitis B

  • Have type 2 diabetes and be obese with a BMI of over 30 (or over 27 if you’re from an ethnic background)

  • Drink more than 30 units of alcohol per week.

Practices are contacting patients known to be in the high-risk groups and asking them to make an appointment for an initial blood test.

However, the pilot is keen to involve as many patients as possible. So, if patients fall into the above criteria and have not already been contacted, they should get in touch with their practice for more details.

  • Brunel Medical Practice 01803 312233

  • Chelston Hall Surgery 01803 605359

  • Croft Hall Medical Practice 0901803 298441

  • Southover Medical Practice 01803 327100

Depending on the results of an initial blood test, patients will either be offered liver health and wellbeing advice, a second blood test or a fibroscan, which measures inflammation of the liver. Torquay PCN is one of just 12 early diagnosis pilot programmes being held throughout England.

The results will be used to potentially develop a national programme to help diagnose liver cancer at an early stage as the symptoms of the disease are difficult to detect. Around 6,200 people are diagnosed with liver cancer each year.

However, incidence of liver cancer has increased by 50% over the past decade and is expected to continue to rise. Evidence suggests more than 50% of liver cancers aren’t diagnosed until stage 3 or 4.

One of the reasons for this is that liver cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms in the early stages. Plus, symptoms that can show are non-specific and are therefore often missed.

These can include weight loss, jaundice, itching, nausea, swollen abdomen, loss of appetite, pain in the abdomen, a lump in the right side of your abdomen or pain in your right shoulder.