What can observational studies tell us about early diagnosis of symptomatic cancer?

Willie Hamilton1

1University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Abstract

Speaker: Prof Willie Hamilton, professor of primary care diagnostics, University of Exeter
Title: What can observational studies tell us about early diagnosis of symptomatic cancer?
It is axiomatic that early diagnosis of cancer is beneficial. However, the key clinical question is not the value of early diagnosis, but of expedited diagnosis. That matters, as interventions to expedite diagnosis act to bring forward diagnosis - which may (or may not) yield benefits. This talk will draw on the extensive observational studies in this field to try and answer four inter-related questions:
a) Is expedited diagnosis useful?
b) If so, by how much?
c) If so, how can we offer expedited diagnosis to our patients?
d) If so, can we estimate the health-economics of the subject to aim for cost-effectiveness as well as clinical effectiveness?
Observational studies have been conducted in many cancer sites, with breast and colorectal receiving most attention. What will be key is the level of reliance policymakers can have for such studies, given the relatively few RCTs in this field.