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      Women's knowledge and beliefs regarding breast cancer

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          Approximately 20–30% of women delay for 12 weeks or more from self-discovery of a breast symptom to presentation to a health care provider, and such delay intervals are associated with poorer survival. Understanding the factors that influence patient delay is important for the development of an effective, targeted health intervention programme to shorten patient delay. The aim of the study was to elicit knowledge and beliefs about breast cancer among a sample of the general female population, and examine age and socio-economic variations in responses. Participants were randomly selected through the Postal Address File, and data were collected through the Office of National Statistics. Geographically distributed throughout the UK, 996 women participated in a short structured interview to elicit their knowledge of breast cancer risk, breast cancer symptoms, and their perceptions of the management and outcomes associated with breast cancer. Women had limited knowledge of their relative risk of developing breast cancer, of associated risk factors and of the diversity of potential breast cancer-related symptoms. Older women were particularly poor at identifying symptoms of breast cancer, risk factors associated with breast cancer and their personal risk of developing the disease. Poorer knowledge of symptoms and risks among older women may help to explain the strong association between older age and delay in help-seeking. If these findings are confirmed they suggest that any intervention programme should target older women in particular, given that advancing age is a risk factor for both developing breast cancer and for subsequent delayed presentation.

          British Journal of Cancer (2002) 86, 1373–1378. DOI: 10.1038/sj/bjc/6600260

          © 2002 Cancer Research UK

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          Most cited references 42

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          The influence on survival of delay in the presentation and treatment of symptomatic breast cancer

          The aim of this study was to examine the possible influence on survival of delays prior to presentation and/or treatment among women with breast cancer. Duration of symptoms prior to hospital referral was recorded for 2964 women who presented with any stage of breast cancer to Guy's Hospital between 1975 and 1990. Median follow-up is 12.5 years. The impact of delay (defined as having symptoms for 12 or more weeks) on survival was measured from the date of diagnosis and from the date when the patient first noticed symptoms to control for lead-time bias. Thirty-two per cent (942/2964) of patients had symptoms for 12 or more weeks before their first hospital visit and 32% (302/942) of patients with delays of 12 or more weeks had locally advanced or metastatic disease, compared with only 10% (210/2022) of those with delays of less than 12 weeks (P< 0.0001). Survival measured both from the date of diagnosis (P< 0.001) and from the onset of the patient's symptoms (P= 0.003) was worse among women with longer delays. Ten years after the onset of symptoms, survival was 52% for women with delays less than 12 weeks and 47% for those with longer delays. At 20 years the survival rates were 34% and 24% respectively. Furthermore, patients with delays of 12–26 weeks had significantly worse survival rates than those with delays of less than 12 weeks. Multivariate analyses indicated that the adverse impact of delay in presentation on survival was attributable to an association between longer delays and more advanced stage. However, within individual stages, longer delay had no adverse impact on survival. Analyses based on ‘total delay’ (i.e. the interval between a patient first noticing symptoms and starting treatment) yielded very similar results in terms of survival to those based on delay to first hospital visit (delay in presentation). © 1999 Cancer Research Campaign
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            Who and what influences delayed presentation in breast cancer?

            This study aimed to examine the extent and determinants of patient and general practitioner delay in the presentation of breast cancer. One hundred and eighty-five cancer patients attending a breast unit were interviewed 2 months after diagnosis. The main outcome measures were patient delay in presentation to the general practitioner and non-referral by the general practitioner to hospital after the patient's first visit. Nineteen per cent of patients delayed > or = 12 weeks. Patient delay was related to clinical tumour size > or = 4 cm (P = 0.0002) and with a higher incidence of locally advanced and metastatic disease (P = 0.01). A number of factors predicted patient delay: initial breast symptom(s) that did not include a lump (OR 4.5, P = 0.003), not disclosing discovery of the breast symptom immediately to someone else (OR 6.0, P < 0.001), seeking help only after being prompted by others (OR 4.4, P = 0.007) and presenting to the general practitioner with a non-breast problem (OR 3.5, P = 0.03). Eighty-three per cent of patients were referred to hospital directly after their first general practitioner visit. Presenting to the GP with a breast symptom that did not include a lump independently predicted general practitioner delay (OR 3.6, P = 0.002). In view of the increasing evidence that delay adversely affects survival, a large multicentre study is now warranted to confirm these findings that may have implications for public and medical education.
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              Are increasing 5-year survival rates evidence of success against cancer?

               H. Welch (2000)
              Increased 5-year survival for cancer patients is generally inferred to mean that cancer treatment has improved and that fewer patients die of cancer. Increased 5-year survival, however, may also reflect changes in diagnosis: finding more people with early-stage cancer, including some who would never have become symptomatic from their cancer. To determine the relationship over time between 5-year cancer survival and 2 other measures of cancer burden, mortality and incidence. Using population-based statistics reported by the National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, we calculated the change in 5-year survival from 1950 to 1995 for the 20 most common solid tumor types. Using the tumor as the unit of analysis, we correlated changes in 5-year survival with changes in mortality and incidence. The association between changes in 5-year survival and changes in mortality and incidence measured using simple correlation coefficients (Pearson and Spearman). From 1950 to 1995, there was an increase in 5-year survival for each of the 20 tumor types. The absolute increase in 5-year survival ranged from 3% (pancreatic cancer) to 50% (prostate cancer). During the same period, mortality rates declined for 12 types of cancer and increased for the remaining 8 types. There was little correlation between the change in 5-year survival for a specific tumor and the change in tumor-related mortality (Pearson r=.00; Spearman r=-.07). On the other hand, the change in 5-year survival was positively correlated with the change in the tumor incidence rate (Pearson r=+. 49; Spearman r=+.37). Although 5-year survival is a valid measure for comparing cancer therapies in a randomized trial, our analysis shows that changes in 5-year survival over time bear little relationship to changes in cancer mortality. Instead, they appear primarily related to changing patterns of diagnosis. JAMA. 2000.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Psychology Unit, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Medical School, Guy's Campus, London SE1 9RT, UK
                [2 ]Section of Liaison Psychiatry and ICRF Psychosocial Oncology Group, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' Medical School, St Thomas' Hospital, London SE1 7EH, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Author for correspondence: beth.grunfeld@
                Br J Cancer
                British Journal of Cancer
                Nature Publishing Group
                06 May 2002
                : 86
                : 9
                : 1373-1378
                Copyright 2002, Cancer Research UK

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                symptoms, breast cancer , age, risk factors


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