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Cancer diagnosis delays

9th June 2008

Research has shown that young people who have cancer "often face significant delays in being initially diagnosed".

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The results of three studies presented at the Teenage Cancer Trust conference in London revealed that young people seek out advice "quickly" if they suspect a problem.

Cancer is responsible for 11% of deaths in young people aged from 15-24.

Professor Tim Eden, who works at the University of Manchester, looked at the cases of 115 patients with bone tumours.

He discovered that the average cancer diagnosis took 15 weeks. Patients' experience of diagnosis was from four to 184 weeks.

The length of time it took to diagnose a patient increased if they were over the age of 12 or if they visited their GP.

Another study was carried out by Sam Smith, a teenage cancer nurse at Manchester's Christie Hospital.

He spoke to 200 young patients, of whom 80% looked for advice within one month of "noticing pain, a lump or swelling, weight loss or tiredness".

Over half - 54% - of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma, 59% with brain tumours and 46% with bone tumours went to see their GP "four or more times" before they were referred.

Professor Eden said: "...the older the patient, the longer the delay. In our studies the professional interval has always been longer than patient symptom interval."

Professor Eden said doctors should be made more aware of cancer symptoms in young people so that diagnosis times could be cut down.

 

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