Exploring diagnostic events and first referrals in cancer patient pathways in primary care. A questionnaire survey

Gitte B Lauridsen*, Dorte E Jarbøl, Peter Thye-Rønn, Sanne Rasmussen, Kirubakaran Balasubramaniam, Jesper Lykkegaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Cancer diagnostic pathways in general practice are often nonlinear, and several events can delay timely diagnosis.

OBJECTIVES: To explore cancer diagnostic processes in general practice, examining how patients' symptom presentations, sex, and age are associated with the occurrence of predefined potentially delaying events and the first referrals.

METHOD: General practices in 3 Danish Regions were invited to participate in a questionnaire survey, addressing patient's symptom presentation, diagnostic process events, and first referral. The general practitioners (GPs) received a list of their incident cancer patients from the preceding 2 years.

RESULTS: In total 187 general practices participated, including 5,908 patients with the cancer diagnostic pathways initiated in general practice. Presenting with nonspecific symptoms was associated with potentially delaying events, even when the patient also had specific symptoms. Almost half of the patients were referred to a cancer patient pathway (CPP) first, men more often than women, and 10% were referred for acute hospitalization. In 23% of the diagnostic processes, GPs initially treated or referred patients on suspicion of another disease rather than cancer and waited due to normal examinations in 1 out of 20 patients. Excluding sex-specific cancers, these 2 events were more prevalent in women. Men less often complied to the follow-up agreement. Younger patients were less often first referred to a CPP and together with older patients more often first acutely hospitalized.

CONCLUSION: In cancer diagnostic processes in general practice, first referrals and the occurrence of potentially delaying events are associated with the patient's age, sex, and specificity of symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13. Dec 2023

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© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com.


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