Characteristics and outcome in patients with non-specific symptoms and signs of cancer referred to a fast track cancer patient pathway: a retrospective cohort study

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Background: In 2012 a new cancer patient pathway for patients with non-specific symptoms and signs of cancer (NSSC-CPP) was introduced in Denmark. Limited information is available about the patients referred to the NSSC-CPP and the investigational course. The aim was to describe the population and the investigational course, estimate the prevalence of cancer and one-year mortality, and identify factors associated with a subsequent cancer diagnosis in patients referred to the NSSC-CPP. Method: This cohort study included patients with at least one visit at the NSSC-CPP at North Zealand Hospital in Denmark (NOH) from October 1st 2013 to September 30th 2014. Data was based on retrospective reviews of the patient files. Logistic regression identified factors associated with a subsequent cancer diagnosis. Multivariate analyses were adjusted by age, gender, smoking status and alcohol consumption. Kaplan-Meier survival plots were made at one-year follow-up. Results: Eight hundred twenty-five patients were included with a median age of 67 years, 47.4% were male. Prevalence of cancer within one year was 16.7% (138/825). 70.3% (97/138) were solid cancers and 29.7% (41/138) were haematological cancers. During the investigational course 76.7% went through advanced diagnostic imaging (ultrasound, CT, FDG-PET/CT or MRI). Anaemia (OR1.63 CI1.02-2.60), leucocytosis (OR 2.06 CI 1.34-3.15), thrombocytopenia (OR 4.13 CI 2.02-8.47) and elevated LDH (OR 1.64 CI 1.07-2.52) and CRP (OR 2.56 CI 1.66-3.95) were associated with a cancer diagnosis when adjusting for possible confounders. No single non-specific symptom was significantly associated with a cancer diagnosis. One-year mortality for those diagnosed with cancer was 44.2%. Conclusion: The prevalence of cancer matches that of another NSSC-CPP in Denmark. Deviations in basic biochemistry were associated with a higher probability of underlying cancer and could possibly raise the level of suspicion of malignancy among physicians. High one-year mortality was seen amongst patients diagnosed with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number809
JournalBMC Cancer
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2017

    Research areas

  • Cancer, Denmark, Fast-track, Non-specific symptoms, One-year mortality

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