Delay in diagnosis of soft tissue sarcomas

Eur J Surg Oncol. 2003 Jun;29(5):440-5. doi: 10.1016/s0748-7983(03)00006-4.


Aim: We reviewed 100 patients referred with soft tissue sarcoma between May 1999 to determine doctor- and patient-related delay.

Methods: Patient delay is defined as longer than one month from first symptoms till doctor's visit, doctor delay as longer than one month from first visit till definitive diagnosis. Sixty-eight patients had a multifactional delay.

Results: Forty-seven patients showed patient delay, with a median patient delay of 4 months, ranging from 2 to 240 months. The main reason for this delay is a painless mass that is mostly ignored. When pain is present, median patient delay is shorter.Twenty-seven patients experienced doctor delay, ranging from 2 to 79 months, with a median of 6 months. The most frequent reason was a misdiagnosis from the outset, on a clinical basis only, or due to a wrong diagnosis on ultrasound. Only two of these 27 patients had a biopsy, showing a benign tumour. High grade tumours are diagnosed earlier, 85% within 6 months.

Conclusions: Delay in diagnosis of soft tissue sarcomas is still a problem requiring better patient and doctor education.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sarcoma / diagnosis*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Time Factors