Timeliness of Diagnosis Varies by Cancer and Patient

Probability of three or more pre-referral consults up for young, ethnic minorities, and women

FRIDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- There is wide variation between cancer types in the proportion of patients who visit their general practitioner three or more times before being referred to the hospital, according to a study published online Feb. 24 in The Lancet Oncology.

Georgios Lyratzopoulos, M.D., from the University in Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated the variation in the number of pre-referral consultations with a general practitioner for 41,299 patients with 24 different cancers.

The researchers found wide variation between the cancer types in the proportion of patients who visited their practitioner three or more times before referral to the hospital (7.4, 10.1, 41.3, and 50.6 percent for breast cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer, and multiple myeloma, respectively). Compared to patients with rectal cancer, those who went on to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, pancreatic, stomach, and lung cancer were more likely to have had three or more pre-referral consults (odds ratio [OR], 3.42, 2.35, 1.96, and 1.68, respectively), in multivariable analysis. Patients who went on to be diagnosed with breast cancer, melanoma, testicular cancer, and endometrial cancer were more likely to be referred after one or two consultations (OR, 0.19, 0.34, 0.47, and 0.59, respectively). Younger patients, those from ethnic minorities, and women were significantly more likely to have three or more pre-referral consultations.

"Our findings could help to prioritize and stratify early diagnosis initiatives and research, focusing on patients with cancers and sociodemographic characteristics with the largest potential for improvement," the authors write.

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