Men with prostate cancer patients are one of the groups most affected by delays in diagnosis of cancer according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.
According to new research, patients with suspected prostate cancer face delays almost three times as long as those with suspected breast cancer. The paper shows that the average time to diagnosis of prostate cancer is 148.5 days, while that for breast cancer is 55.2 days.
The research compared different elements of delay in diagnosis (delay by the patient and delays in primary care, referral, or secondary care) for six types of cancer (breast, colorectal, lung, ovarian, prostate, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) and compared delays in patients who saw their GP before diagnosis with those who did not.
Breast cancer patients experienced the shortest total delays (mean 55.2 days), followed by lung (88.5), ovarian (90.3), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (102.8), colorectal (125.7) and prostate (148.5).
The main problem appears to be at primary care level. Compared with patient and primary care delays, referral delays and secondary care delays were much shorter. An ostensibly worrying finding was that patients who saw their GP prior to diagnosis experienced considerably longer total diagnostic delays than those who did not.
This finding was ‘unexpected’ said the researchers. ‘Given that the referral delays were not prolonged’, they went on, ‘there are two potential explanations of this finding. Firstly, because earlier stage disease (usually less symptomatic) presents mainly to primary rather than secondary care, with later stage disease (with more aggressive symptoms) more likely to be presented to secondary care. Second, because there may be more ‘system’ delays in primary compared to secondary care (eg. waiting times for primary care initiated diagnostics).’
Cancer survival in the Uk is poor by European standards and there is evidence that UK patients are diagnosed at a later stage. Reducing diagnostic delays with the intention of increasing the proportion of early stage cancers may improve cancer survival in the UK. The researchers concluded that: ‘interventions aimed at reducing patient and primary care delays need to be developed and their effect on diagnostic stage and psychological distress evaluated.’
- The British Journal of Cancer site is here. You can download the complete article here.