Background: Early diagnosis of cancer allows an opportunity for timely treatment while disease burden is in its earliest stages. Unfortunately, late presentation and delayed diagnosis of childhood cancers remains a problem in developing countries.
Objectives: To describe the pre-diagnostic symptomatic intervals and the factors influencing these time intervals in childhood cancer at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Methods: Information was obtained from the case notes of children seen between March 2006 and August 2008. Information included socio-demographic variables, stage of the cancer, duration of illness at diagnosis and other health seeking activities.
Results: Sixty-four children (40 males, 24 females) were studied. Median overall lag time was 13.1 weeks; median parent delay was 2 weeks and median health system delay was 8.8 weeks. Median lag times were shortest in acute leukaemia (8.1 weeks) and Wilms. tumour (8.7 weeks) and longest in Hodgkin lymphoma (101.7 weeks).
Conclusion: Lag times were longer than those in developed countries. Factors contributing to delayed diagnosis included delayed referral by doctors, seeking health care from alternate sources and financial constraints. Education of parents and physicians on early presentation and early referral for early diagnosis is recommended.