Background: It is well known that there are delays in diagnosis of lung cancer, both from the patients and from the doctors. We decided to prospectively study this in our area.
Patients and methods: All patients with known lung cancer (134 cases) seen at the Department of Respiratory Medicine in Gaevle from February 1, 1997, to February 28, 1998, were investigated prospectively. A questionnaire recorded all symptoms, smoking habits, etc. All dates for visits to doctors and investigations were noted.
Results: The mean delay of the patients, i.e. from the first symptom(s) until the GP was contacted, was 43 days (median 21). From the first contact with the GP until referral to the specialist the mean time was 56 days (median 33). From the first visit to the specialist to diagnosis the mean time was 33 days (median 9), with 68% of the patients diagnosed within a month. The mean time from first symptom(s) until treatment or the decision not to treat (the sum of all delays) was 203 days (median 189), i.e. around 7 months.
Conclusion: The delays are in most instances fairly long. With a planned approach, the delays due to the doctors could probably be shortened.