Background: Understanding variation in stage at diagnosis can inform interventions to improve the timeliness of diagnosis for patients with different cancers and characteristics.
Methods: We analysed population-based data on 17,836 and 13,286 East of England residents diagnosed with (female) breast and lung cancer during 2006-2009, with stage information on 16,460 (92%) and 10,435 (79%) patients, respectively. Odds ratios (ORs) of advanced stage at diagnosis adjusted for patient and tumour characteristics were derived using logistic regression.
Results: We present adjusted ORs of diagnosis in stages III/IV compared with diagnosis in stages I/II. For breast cancer, the frequency of advanced stage at diagnosis increased stepwise among old women (ORs: 1.21, 1.46, 1.68 and 1.78 for women aged 70-74, 75-79, 80-84 and ≥85, respectively, compared with those aged 65-69 , P<0.001). In contrast, for lung cancer advanced stage at diagnosis was less frequent in old patients (ORs: 0.82, 0.74, 0.73 and 0.66, P<0.001). Advanced stage at diagnosis was more frequent in more deprived women with breast cancer (OR: 1.23 for most compared with least deprived, P=0.002), and in men with lung cancer (OR: 1.14, P=0.011). The observed patterns were robust to sensitivity analyses approaches for handling missing stage data under different assumptions.
Conclusion: Interventions to help improve the timeliness of diagnosis of different cancers should be targeted at specific age groups.