Objectives: Early diagnosis of childhood cancer is critical. Nevertheless, little is known about the potential role of inequality. This study aims to describe the use of primary care 2 years before a childhood cancer diagnosis and to investigate whether socioeconomic factors influence the use of consultations and diagnostic tests in primary care.
Design: A national population-based matched cohort study.
Setting and participants: This study uses observational data from four Danish nationwide registers. All children aged 0-15 diagnosed with cancer during 2008-2015 were included (n=1386). Each case was matched based on gender and age with 10 references (n=13 860).
Primary and secondary outcome measures: The primary outcome was additional rates for consultations and for invoiced diagnostic tests for children with cancer according to parental socioeconomic factors. Furthermore, we estimated the association between socioeconomic factors and frequent use of consultations, defined as at least four consultations, and the odds of receiving a diagnostic test within 3 months of diagnosis.
Results: Children with cancer from families with high income had 1.46 (95% CI 1.23 to 1.69) additional consultations 3 months before diagnosis, whereas children from families with low income had 1.85 (95% CI 1.60 to 2.11) additional consultations. The highest odds of frequent use of consultations was observed among children from low-income families (OR: 1.94, 95% CI 1.24 to 3.03). A higher odds of receiving an invoiced diagnostic test was seen for children from families with mid-educational level (OR: 1.46, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.95).
Conclusion: We found a socioeconomic gradient in the use of general practice before a childhood cancer diagnosis. This suggests that social inequalities exist in the pattern of healthcare utilisation in general practice.
Keywords: paediatric oncology; primary care; public health.
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