Defining and measuring key timepoints and intervals in early diagnosis research: outcomes of a consensus working group


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David Weller1,Christine Campbell1,Richard Neale2,Sadia Nafees2
1University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom,2North Wales Clinical School, Wrexham, United Kingdom

Background

The National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative has a strong focus on reducing delays in cancer diagnosis. It is vital that new initiatives in this area are supported by robust definitions and methods for measuring key time-points and intervals (Andersen et al, 2009). However, existing studies rarely report in any detail either the definitions they have used, or the methods employed to measure the timepoints. This makes comparisons between different studies difficult, and limits international comparisons in early diagnosis research.

Method

We have established a Consensus Working Group (CWG), drawn from members of the NCRI Primary Care Clinical Studies Development Group and a number of international colleagues. Using a modified Delphi process, the group is reviewing international literature, running group workshops and developing a series of consensus statements on how 4 key timepoints (date of first symptom, date of first presentation to primary care, date of referral and date of diagnosis) should best be defined, along with guidance on methodological approaches to measurement. The group is due to report in December 2010.

Results

The literature identified shows a wide variety of definitions of these timepoints, with little or no detail of or justification for definitions used. Further, a wide variety of measurement methods are used, including patient and GP interviews, questionnaires and case note audits - again methods are poorly described. This presentation will provide an overview of the existing literature, as well as draft recommendations for definitions and measurement approaches

Conclusion

Early diagnosis research needs greater consistency and quality in its definitions of key timepoints in the cancer journey, and approaches to their measurement. The publication of consensus statements will help promote these aims, and facilitate international collaborative research in this field