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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 221-225

Barriers and explanatory mechanisms in diagnostic delay in four cancers – A health-care disparity?

1 Department of Radiotherapy, Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Department of Radiotherapy, IPGME and R, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
3 Diamond Harbour District Hospital, Diamond Harbour, West Bengal, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Abhishek Basu
Department of Radiotherapy, Medical College, Kolkata, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sajc.sajc_311_18

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Introduction: Most cancer disparities research has traditionally focused on two key outcomes, access to appropriate treatment and survival, but they do not encompass important aspects of patient-centered care such as the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment. Prolonged time intervals between symptom onset and treatment initiation increase the risk of poorer clinical outcomes and are associated with worse patient experience of subsequent cancer care. This study aims to assess the delay from symptom onset to the start of definitive treatment and to identify the possible contributory factors and its impact on response in cancers of head and neck, breast, cervix, and lung. Materials and Methods: This was a retrospective study of patients enrolled between 2015 and 2017. A questionnaire was filled in about socioeconomic aspects, patient history, tumor data, professionals who evaluated the patients, and the respective time delays. Statistical test included Mann–Whitney U test, univariate and multivariate test, and one-way ANOVA to evaluate the correlations. Results: Stage migration was significant with patient delay (P < 0.01). In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and Carcinoma lung, a significant correlation was found between referral delay and residence (P < 0.01) and treatment delay and reason for referral (HNSCC only) (P = 0.04). Referral delay and treatment delay were correlated to response in breast and cervix, respectively (P < 0.01). Conclusion: Social awareness, regularly updating primary care physicians about alarming symptoms of cancer, developing guidelines to identify these symptoms, promoting continuity of care, and enabling access to specialist expertise through prompt referral should all help prevent delays in cancer diagnosis.

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