Clinical characteristics and risk of serious disease in patients referred to a diagnostic centre: A cohort study

Cancer Epidemiol. 2017 Oct;50(Pt A):158-165. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2017.07.014. Epub 2017 Aug 7.


Background: Little is known about the clinical characteristics of patients referred to a diagnostic centre through the Danish urgent referral pathway for non-specific serious symptoms. We aimed at estimating the distribution of serious disease and the diagnostic value of clinical characteristics for the diagnosis of cancer and serious non-malignant disease in these patients.

Method: A cohort study of 938 patients referred by their GP to the diagnostic centre at Silkeborg Regional Hospital. All patients were followed up for three months in national registries. The likelihood ratio (LR) of cancer or serious non-malignant disease were calculated in relation to clinical characteristics.

Results: A total of 327 (34.9%) patients were diagnosed with new serious disease within three months: 118 patients (12.6%) with malignant disease and 209 patients (22.3%) with non-malignant disease. Most patients presented general symptoms. The highest LR of cancer was found for abdominal mass, high lactate dehydrogenase or abnormal findings in the diagnostic imaging. The highest LR of non-malignant disease was found for swollen joints or abnormal auscultation of lung or chest.

Conclusions: Patients referred by their GP to the diagnostic centre have high risk of serious disease. A multidisciplinary diagnostic approach is needed to embrace the diagnostic spectrum.

Keywords: Denmark; Early cancer diagnosis; General practice; Neoplasm; Urgent referral.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Young Adult