According to one study, the time it takes for a cancer patient to see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and start treatment varies significantly depending on the patient’s location and type of cancer, with people living in low-income countries taking up to four times as long. And care begins.
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and timely diagnosis and treatment are essential to improve patient outcomes. To understand how cancer treatment times vary across different cancer types and in high- and low-income countries. The researchers reviewed the relevant scientific literature. They performed a meta-analysis of 410 articles. They represented 68 countries and more than 5.5 million patients.
Specifically, they looked at three-time intervals: from first symptom to the doctor visit, from the first consultation to diagnosis, and from diagnosis to start of treatment. In high-income countries, most patients see a doctor within a month of experiencing symptoms, but in low-income countries, this interval was 1.5 to 4 times longer for almost all types of cancer.
Across countries, cancers that cause non-specific symptoms, such as myeloma, colorectal and gynecological cancers, generally take the longest to be diagnosed, with prostate and gynecological cancers having the longest average delays in treatment.
New research highlights the extent of global disparities in early cancer diagnosis. The researchers urge that efforts should be made to reduce the time it takes to care for patients in low-income countries after experiencing symptoms.
They acknowledge that estimates of the time it takes to diagnose and initiate treatment mostly come from high-income countries because these countries have robust health information systems to record this information. Additionally, these findings spotlight types of cancer where research on earlier diagnosis and ways to provide treatment may lead to better outcomes for patients.
Dafina Petrova of the Biomedical Research Institute added, “Our new study identifies the cancers where diagnosis and treatment initiation may take the longest and reveals important global disparities in early cancer diagnosis and treatment.”