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”Diagnostic window” can be used to ensure earlier diagnosis and treatment

Results from a CaP study about prediagnostic activity in general practice preceding a lung cancer diagnosis suggests that there is a diagnostic window that can be used to ensure earlier diagnosis and thereby earlier treatment of lung cancer.

Photo: Colourbox
Photo: Colourbox

Every year over 4,000 new cases of lung cancer in Denmark are being diagnosed, and the vast majority die within a 5 year period. Knowledge about the use of general practice in the time up to the diagnosis can be an important step to ensure earlier diagnosis of lung cancer.

This study investigates the prediagnostic activity at the practitioner before a lung cancer diagnosis. The study is based on the Danish register data and include lung cancer patients with and without COPD. The results show that the patients who were later diagnosed with lung cancer had significantly more consultations with their own doctor and also underwent several diagnostic studies (eg. X-rays and pulmonary function tests) by up to one year before the diagnosis than a comparable background population. This increase was observed, regardless of what stage lung cancer was at the time of the diagnosis.

The study points out that a vast majority of the patients who later got lung cancer went to the doctor and got examined in the time up to a lung cancer diagnosis. Therefore, the results indicate that the opportunity of earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment of lung cancer can be overlooked, often with patients who already has pulmonary symptoms, as for example patients with COPD. The solution is probably more training in symptom interpretation and easier access to more accurate diagnostic tests as for example low-dose CT.


Further information
Postdoc, doctor Louise Mahncke Guldbrandt
Aarhus University, Department of Public Health
Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care and The Research Unit for General Practice 
Phone: +458716 8059