6. Themed Days - Primary Care

6.11. Cancer in primary care

Preparatory work

In preparation students should have:

  • Read about the NHS Cancer Programme and key ambitions on the NHS long term plan for cancer.
  • Watched the video on the Dying Matters website of Dr Kate Granger talking about her illness, its impact on her and the “hello my name is” campaign
  • Looked at the “Be Clear on Cancer” campaign website.
  • Reviewed some of the resources about living with cancer on the healthtalk.org website and chosen to watch one or two videos of patient experiences of cancer.



To introduce the students to the topic of cancer and its impact on the patient, their family and carers, the primary healthcare team and the wider health and social care professionals.


Learning outcomes

By the end of the day the students will be able to: 

  • Identify the key National Government strategies that impact on the primary care team 
  • Describe the national campaigns for screening for cervical breast and bowel cancer and the stigma around uptake in primary care
  • Describe the public health campaigns and the role of the GP, in improving earlier diagnosis of cancer
  • Identify the wider health and social care team that can be involved with a patient with cancer
  • Describe the common red flag symptoms that may indicate a cancer diagnosis.
  • Describe the impact of a cancer diagnosis on the patient (or their carer) and their primary care team.


Example timetable

9.30 – 10.30

Tutorial on cancer in primary care


10.30 – 10.45


Tea break

10.45 – 11.45

Breakout task; Red flags – case studies



11.45 – 12.45

Feedback from case studies


Students to look at practice 2WW referrals


12.45 – 13.45



13.45 – 14.45

Prepare for patient encounters

  • Plan questions and observations


Patient encounters

  • Interview a patient with current or past cancer diagnosis


14.45 – 15.00


Tea break

15.00 – 16.00

Debrief after meeting with patients with a cancer diagnosis and discuss impact on the students and healthcare team

Set homework for next session

Suggested activities

  • Tutorial on cancer in primary care – could include discussion around cancer diagnosis, survival rates and NHS key priorities; students presenting on cancer screening programmes and debates surrounding its efficacy; group discussion about clinical signs and symptoms of different cancers and link to 2 week wait system; reviewing cancer awareness campaigns; any hot topics e.g. impact of COVID-19 on cancer screening and treatment (lots of articles)
  • Sit in with GP or nurse looking at possible pathways for referral for cancer investigation (including 2 Week Wait)
  • Case studies – red flags (link to 2WW referrals)
  • Group brainstorm MDT involved in caring for cancer patients and their families/carers. Followed by a visit to or research into an allied health/social care professional/cancer charity support/bereavement group and feedback to group
  • Interview a patient with a current or past cancer diagnosis; group debrief after meeting and discuss impact on the students and healthcare team


Questions for students to consider

  • If you met a patient with a current or past diagnosis of cancer – what did they remember about receiving their cancer diagnosis? What support did they receive other than medical treatment and did they feel their wider care needs were met? How can healthcare professionals support patients when they are faced with a cancer diagnosis?
  • What might stop a patient from presenting to their GP with a worrying symptom that could be cancer? How can the primary care team and/or public health teams encourage and support patients to seek help?


Further reading/resources

Paul Kanathi - When Breath Becomes Air

Atul Gawande -   Being Mortal

John Diamond - C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too 

Ruth Picardie - Before I Say Goodbye

Dr Kate Granger’s blog