In Scotland, patients with suspected head and neck cancer are referred on the basis of the Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer, rather than the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines. A chest X-ray should be requested by the general practitioner at the same time as referral for persistent hoarseness. The evidence for this is level 4.
This audit identified adherence to this recommendation and X-ray results. All ‘urgent suspicion of cancer’ referrals to the ENT department in the National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde for 2015–2016 were audited.
Persistent hoarseness for more than 3 weeks instigated referral in 318 patients (15.7 per cent). Chest X-ray was performed in 120 patients (38 per cent), which showed: no abnormality in 116 (96.7 per cent), features of infection in 2 (1.7 per cent) and something else in 2 patients (1.7 per cent). No chest X-ray altered the management of a patient.
Performance of chest X-ray does not alter management and its removal from the Scottish Referral Guidelines for Suspected Cancer is recommended.
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