Variation in promptness of presentation among 10,297 patients subsequently diagnosed with one of 18 cancers: evidence from a National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care

Int J Cancer. 2014 Sep 1;135(5):1220-8. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28763. Epub 2014 Feb 25.


Cancer awareness public campaigns aim to shorten the interval between symptom onset and presentation to a doctor (the 'patient interval'). Appreciating variation in promptness of presentation can help to better target awareness campaigns. We explored variation in patient intervals recorded in consultations with general practitioners among 10,297 English patients subsequently diagnosed with one of 18 cancers (bladder, brain, breast, colorectal, endometrial, leukaemia, lung, lymphoma, melanoma, multiple myeloma, oesophageal, oro-pharyngeal, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, renal, stomach, and unknown primary) using data from of the National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care (2009-2010). Proportions of patients with 'prompt'/'non-prompt' presentation (0-14 or 15+ days from symptom onset, respectively) were described and respective odds ratios were calculated by multivariable logistic regression. The overall median recorded patient interval was 10 days (IQR 0-38). Of all patients, 56% presented promptly. Prompt presentation was more frequent among older or housebound patients (p < 0.001). Prompt presentation was most frequent for bladder and renal cancer (74% and 70%, respectively); and least frequent for oro-pharyngeal and oesophageal cancer (34% and 39%, respectively, p <.001). Using lung cancer as reference, the adjusted odds ratios of non-prompt presentation were 2.26 (95% confidence interval 1.57-3.25) and 0.42 (0.34-0.52) for oro-pharyngeal and bladder cancer, respectively. Sensitivity analyses produced similar findings. Routinely recorded patient interval data reveal considerable variation in the promptness of presentation. These findings can help to prioritise public awareness initiatives and research focusing on symptoms of cancers associated with greater risk of non-prompt presentation, such as oro-pharyngeal and oesophageal cancer.

Keywords: bladder; cancer; delay; oesophageal; oro-pharyngeal; patient interval; presentation; promptness; renal; variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Primary Health Care
  • Young Adult