Around 5,000 deaths could be prevented every year in England under new guidelines aimed at encouraging earlier cancer referrals.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has updated and redesigned its guidelines to support GPs to recognise the signs and symptoms of 37 different cancers and refer people for the right tests more quickly.
Patients in the early stages of cancer often present at primary care with non-specific symptoms. These are not always clear and obvious, and GPs often only see an average of eight new cases a year.
A new approach has been adopted by NICE, focusing on the symptoms that might prompt a patient to go and see their doctor, making its recommendations easier to use.
Clear tables are provided linking signs and symptoms to possible cancers, along with simple recommendations about which tests to perform and the type of referral to specialist services that should be made.
According to NICE, this could lead GPs to consider the possibility of cancer sooner and refer people for tests more quickly. As a result, more people are expected to receive an early diagnosis and more cancers could be cured.
Professor Mark Baker, clinical practice director at NICE, said: "The best way to successfully treat cancer is to make an early diagnosis. The sooner the disease is identified, the more likely treatment is to be effective. Earlier diagnoses have the potential to save thousands of lives each year."
One in every two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. The disease is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK - in many cases, this will be due to a late diagnosis.