Cancer as acute disease


Session type:

Frede Olesen
The Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark


Denmark has a tax-financed healthcare system with the GP taking the role of gatekeeper to secondary care, a system very similar to the British. The system has suffered from very long waits for diagnostic work-up, and at the same time cancer prognoses, like in the UK, were quite poor. This may partly have been due to delay in diagnosis.


In 2007, Denmark decided to see cancer as acute disease with rapid access to diagnostic work-up and immediate start of treatment. In this presentation I will outline the Danish initiatives to reduce system-related delay in diagnosis and describe challenges and difficulties in the process of accelerating the diagnostic process. The challenge is particularly great in relation to patients with atypical symptoms on presentation to health care. The Danish strategy consists of three components:


  • Rapid access to planned diagnostic work-up in cases presenting with typical cancer symptoms
  • Improved, rapid access to diagnostic intervention in secondary care when prescribed by the GP
  • Access to diagnostic hospital centres without wait for referral in difficult cases where the GP asks for assistance in the diagnostic process.


    Olesen F, Hansen RP, Vedsted P. Delay in diagnosis: the experience in Denmark. Br J Cancer 2009;101 Suppl 2:S5-8.:S5-S8.