Cancer awareness and early diagnosis in Denmark: A rewarding intervention?


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Peter Vedsted1
1Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, Aarhus University, Denmark

Abstract

As in the UK, Denmark has a poor cancer survival compared with other European countries. Studies have shown that Danish cancer patients wait long to seek medical advice for symptoms. In fact, there might be a paradoxical relation between type of symptom and the patient interval as data show that those patients reporting alarm symptoms wait longer than patients with unspecific symptoms. Another key issue is the way patients react in relation to the specific health care setting they are situated in. Studies have shown that gatekeeper and list systems may have lower cancer survival. Further, we see that patients do report barriers in relation to access to primary care when they think it could be reasonable. Thus, patients might have reasons for health care seeking or not seeking care that are rooted in the organisation of the health care system and the interaction with e.g. GPs.

The question is whether the long patient interval from first symptom experience until first presentation to a health care professional is actually associated with knowledge of cancer symptoms and beliefs about cancer or whether other important factors might explain or contribute. This is absolutely important to know if and when we are going to intervene against too long patient intervals. Further, do patients wait too long? Are there any evidence that waiting matters or that changing time to presentation would mean that e.g. GPs would diagnose and refer earlier?

This presentation will concentrate on the aspects of earlier cancer diagnosis, the complex patchwork of factors mediating the time to cancer diagnosis and focus on the relation between awareness, beliefs, system and social factors in health care seeking behaviour.