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      The Danish cancer pathway for patients with serious non-specific symptoms and signs of cancer–a cross-sectional study of patient characteristics and cancer probability

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          Abstract

          Background

          A Danish cancer pathway has been implemented for patients with serious non-specific symptoms and signs of cancer (NSSC-CPP). The initiative is one of several to improve the long diagnostic interval and the poor survival of Danish cancer patients. However, little is known about the patients investigated under this pathway. We aim to describe the characteristics of patients referred from general practice to the NSSC-CPP and to estimate the cancer probability and distribution in this population.

          Methods

          A cross-sectional study was performed, including all patients referred to the NSSC-CPP at the hospitals in Aarhus or Silkeborg in the Central Denmark Region between March 2012 and March 2013. Data were based on a questionnaire completed by the patient’s general practitioner (GP) combined with nationwide registers. Cancer probability was the percentage of new cancers per investigated patient. Associations between patient characteristics and cancer diagnosis were estimated with prevalence rate ratios (PRRs) from a generalised linear model.

          Results

          The mean age of all 1278 included patients was 65.9 years, and 47.5 % were men. In total, 16.2 % of all patients had a cancer diagnosis after six months; the most common types were lung cancer (17.9 %), colorectal cancer (12.6 %), hematopoietic tissue cancer (10.1 %) and pancreatic cancer (9.2 %). All patients in combination had more than 80 different symptoms and 51 different clinical findings at referral. Most symptoms were non-specific and vague; weight loss and fatigue were present in more than half of all cases. The three most common clinical findings were ‘affected general condition’ (35.8 %), ‘GP’s gut feeling’ (22.5 %) and ‘findings from the abdomen’ (13.0 %). A strong association was found between GP-estimated cancer risk at referral and probability of cancer.

          Conclusions

          In total, 16.2 % of the patients referred through the NSSC-CPP had cancer. They constituted a heterogeneous group with many different symptoms and clinical findings. The GP’s gut feeling was a common reason for referral which proved to be a strong predictor of cancer. The GP’s overall estimation of the patient’s risk of cancer at referral was associated with the probability of finding cancer.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1424-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 32

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          General practice and primary health care in Denmark.

          General practice is the corner stone of Danish primary health care. General practitioners (GPs) are similar to family physicians in the United States. On average, all Danes have 6.9 contacts per year with their GP (in-person, telephone, or E-mail consultation). General practice is characterized by 5 key components: (1) a list system, with an average of close to 1600 persons on the list of a typical GP; (2) the GP as gatekeeper and first-line provider in the sense that a referral from a GP is required for most office-based specialists and always for in- and outpatient hospital treatment; (3) an after-hours system staffed by GPs on a rota basis; (4) a mixed capitation and fee-for-service system; and (5) GPs are self-employed, working on contract for the public funder based on a national agreement that details not only services and reimbursement but also opening hours and required postgraduate education. The contract is (re)negotiated every 2 years. General practice is embedded in a universal tax-funded health care system in which GP and hospital services are free at the point of use. The current system has evolved over the past century and has shown an ability to adapt flexibly to new challenges. Practice units are fairly small: close to 2 GPs per unit plus nurses and secretaries. The units are fully computerized, that is, with computer-based patient records and submission of prescriptions digitally to pharmacies etc. Over the past few years a decrease in solo practices has been seen and is expected to accelerate, in part because of the GP age structure, with many GPs retiring and new GPs not wanting to practice alone. This latter workforce trend is pointing toward a new model with employed GPs, particularly in rural areas.
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            Is primary care essential?

             B Starfield (1994)
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              The Danish Cancer Registry--history, content, quality and use.

              The Danish Cancer Registry is a population-based registry containing data on the incidence of cancer throughout Denmark since 1943. Reporting of cancer was made mandatory by administrative order in 1987. Details of individual cases of cancer are available according to the 7th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) for all years, and according to the ICD-O since 1978. A core data set is kept on each individual which includes date of birth, sex, date of cancer diagnosis, method of verification, date of death and cause of death. This paper describes the history of the registry, its data sources and its procedures, including quality control and access to data. Integration of both research activities and registration since the inception of the Registry has maintained the completeness and validity of the data for 1943-1996.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                mads.ingeman@feap.dk
                mbc@ph.au.dk
                fbro@feap.dk
                soerknud@rm.dk
                p.vedsted@feap.dk
                Journal
                BMC Cancer
                BMC Cancer
                BMC Cancer
                BioMed Central (London )
                1471-2407
                20 May 2015
                20 May 2015
                2015
                : 15
                Affiliations
                [ ]Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
                [ ]Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care (CaP), Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
                [ ]Department of Public Health, Section for General Medical Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
                [ ]Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine (MEA), Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade, Aarhus, Denmark
                Article
                1424
                10.1186/s12885-015-1424-5
                4445271
                25990247
                © Ingeman et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Categories
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2015

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                fast-track, neoplasm, general practice, diagnosis, cancer symptoms, denmark

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