Patient symptom experience prior to a diagnosis of oesophageal or gastric cancer: a multi-methods study

Oesophageal and gastric cancers account for 5% of all new cancer cases in the UK however, up to 70% are diagnosed at a late stage, which limits treatment options and contributes to poor survival. This study aimed to explore patients’ experience and symptom presentation before diagnosis of oesophageal or gastric cancer. Through surveys, medical record data, and interviews, this study highlights the multiple symptoms patients experience before seeking help in primary care, and the miscommunication of key symptoms with the general practitioner (GP). Participants were found to self-manage initial symptoms and only sought primary care help if symptoms persisted or worsened. Even so, the patient rarely informed the GP of all symptoms at the initial consultation, making diagnosis challenging. There is limited evidence exploring the path to diagnosis from a patients’ perspective, and the results from this study highlights a need for greater symptom awareness among patients to encourage earlier primary care help-seeking. 

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