A delay in diagnosing lung cancer after a patient first presents with symptoms does not affect cancer stage or survival, Spanish investigators report.
Dr. Salvador Pita-Fernandez and colleagues at Complexo Hospitalario Universitario Juan Canelejo in Coruna theorized that delayed diagnosis and treatment would allow the tumor to progress and thus shorten survival. One study has demonstrated that a shorter interval from first symptom to diagnosis (SDI) decreases invasion, but other investigators have detected no such relationship.The authors followed 378 patients diagnosed with lung cancer at their institution. SDI ranged from 3 days to 22.07 months (median 2.1 months). Their findings are published in the September issue of the journal of Clinical Epidemiology.After adjusting for age and gender, SDI was independent of disease stage. Survival was affected by age and stage, but not by SDI. Similar results were obtained when the authors restricted their analysis to patients with small-cell carcinoma, which is associated with fast growth and dissemination even in early phases of the disease.Dr. Pita-Fernandez’s team attributes their findings to variability in the biologic behavior of the tumor, the patient’s behavior, and the clinical course of the disease.They reason that, “without any clear evidence that secondary prevention activities are effective in reducing mortality in lung cancer patients, primary prevention measures must be the key elements in reducing its incidence.” (Source: J Clin Epidemiol 2003;56:820-825: Reuters Health: October 23, 2003: Oncolink)