GPs could be given computer software within the next five years that will help them identify which of their patients are most likely to be in the early stages of developing cancer.
The initiative, announced by Professor Mike Richards, the Government's cancer tsar, is designed to provide earlier diagnosis of lung and bowel cancer and could save thousands of lives a year which are now lost because symptoms are spotted too late.
Professor Mike Richards, the Department of Health's National Cancer Director, said the tool will help GPs to decide if a patient should be sent for urgent tests.
Prof Richards said the additional diagnostic tool could lead to "better decision-making by GPs" but said family doctors would still have the final say about whether to refer a patient.
Prof Richards said it would take "a remarkable human brain" to retain all the information needed about symptoms of different cancers as well as for all the other ailments GPs have to identify and added: "Why not get computers to support it?"
"The benefit of this will be that GPs will know who should be investigated and who shouldn't," he said.
"It will also help patients to know that whether they are being reassured, or referred, or getting a test, that is the right thing to do."
The computer would assess risk by taking into account a patient's age, weight and any symptoms like as rectal bleeding or constant fatigue.
If risk was considered to be above a certain level, the person could be referred to hospital for urgent exploratory tests within two weeks.