Waiting times for diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancer in Denmark in 2010 compared to 1992 and 2002

Eur J Cancer. 2013 May;49(7):1627-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2012.11.034. Epub 2012 Dec 27.


Background and aim: Significant tumour progression was observed during waiting time for treatment of head and neck cancer. To reduce waiting times, a Danish national policy of fast track accelerated clinical pathways was introduced in 2007. This study describes changes in waiting time and the potential influence of fast track by comparing waiting times in 2010 to 2002 and 1992.

Methods: Charts of all new patients diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx at the five Danish head and neck oncology centres from January to April 2010 (n=253) were reviewed and compared to similar data from 2002 (n=211) and 1992 (n=168).

Results: The median time to diagnosis was 13 days (2010) versus 17 days (2002; p<0.001) and 20 days (1992; p<0.001). Median days from diagnosis to treatment start were 25 (2010) versus 47 (2002; p<0.001) and 31 (1992; p<0.001). Total pre-treatment time was median 41 days in 2010 versus 69 days (2002) (p<0.001) and 50 days (1992; p<0.001). Significantly more diagnostic imaging was done in 2010 compared to 2002 and 1992. When compared to current fast track standards the adherence to diagnosis improved slightly from 47% (1992) to 51% (2002) and 64% (2010); waiting time for radiotherapy was within standards for 7%, 1% and 22% of cases, respectively; waiting time for surgery was within standards for 17%, 22% and 48%, respectively.

Conclusion: The study showed a significant reduction in delay of diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancer in 2010, but still less than half of all patients start treatment within the current standards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy*
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Health Programs / standards
  • National Health Programs / trends
  • Personal Health Services / standards
  • Personal Health Services / trends
  • Time Factors
  • Waiting Lists