Evaluating the delay prior to primary care presentation in patients with lung cancer: a cohort study

Jalpa Kotecha, Allan Clark, Matthew Burton, Wei Yee Chan, Di Menzies, Ulrike Dernedde, Rachel Banham, Andrew Wilson, William Craig Martin

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Abstract

Background: Little is known about 'within-patient delay', which is the time from first symptom of lung cancer to contacting primary care. Aim: Primary outcomes were length of within-patient delay and the proportion of total delay it represents. Secondary outcomes were factors causing delay and survival. Design & setting: A cohort study of newly diagnosed patients with lung cancer at two hospitals in Norfolk. Method: Patients completed questionnaires regarding onset of symptoms, whether they had delayed, and their reasons. GPs completed correlating questionnaires. Pathway times and other data were extracted from cancer registry and hospital records, and outcomes obtained prospectively. Factors causing delay were compared using ratios of geometric means. Results: In 379 patients, mean within-patient delay and pre-secondary care delay were 188.6 days and 241 days (61.4% and 78.5% of total delay, respectively). It was found that 38.8% of patients felt they had delayed. Patient-related causes of delay were denial (ratio of means [ROM] = 4.36; P = 0.002, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.71 to 11.1); anxiety (ROM = 3.36; P = 0.026; 95% CI = 1.16 to 9.76); non-recognition of symptoms (ROM = 2.80; P = 0.004; 95% CI = 1.41 to 5.59); and smoking (ROM = 1.76; P = 0.021; 95% CI = 1.09 to 2.86), respectively. These symptoms were associated with delay: finger swelling or discomfort (ROM = 2.72; P = 0.009, 95% CI = 1.29 to 5.74); cough (ROM = 2.53; P<0.001; 95% CI = 1.52 to 4.19); weight loss (ROM = 2.41; P<0.001; 95% CI = 1.49 to 3.88); weakness (ROM = 2.35; P = 0.001; 95% CI = 1.45 to 3.83); dyspnoea (ROM = 2.30; P = 0.001; 95% CI = 1.40 to 3.80); voice change (ROM = 1.90; P = 0.010; 95% CI = 1.17 to 3.10); and sputum (ROM = 1.66; P = 0.039; 95% CI = 1.03 to 2.67), respectively, also having more than five symptoms (compared with 1–3) (ROM = 3.69; P<0.001; 95% CI = 2.05 to 6.64). No overall relation between within-patient delay and survival was seen. Conclusion: Using smoking registers, awareness literature, and self-care manuals, primary care staff could liaise with people who have ever smoked regarding their symptoms to ensure early referral to secondary care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberBJGPO.2020.0130
JournalBJGP Open
Volume5
Issue number2
Early online date8 Dec 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • causes of delay
  • lung neoplasms
  • primary health care
  • smokers
  • within-patient delay

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