Time intervals from first symptom to diagnosis for head and neck cancers

Early diagnosis of head and neck cancer (HNC) is important as it is likely to improve survival and quality of life. This analysis used linked patient reports and medical records in the UK to improve the understanding of the intervals from first symptom recognition to diagnosis for HNC, and investigate associations between patient-reported symptoms and socio-demographic factors. Patients who were within three months since diagnosis completed a researcher-administered questionnaire and data were extracted from clinical records. Eighty participants were interviewed. The median diagnostic interval was 92 days. The symptom appraisal interval was longer than a month for 39% of participants, and the help-seeking interval was longer than a week for 44%. Appraisal intervals of more than a month were associated with male gender, ulceration and persistent throat pain. The only symptom that associated with help seeking of more than a week was ulceration. The results of this analysis describe the intervals from first symptom to diagnosis and provide insight into target areas to decrease the overall time to diagnosis.

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