Most YAs were not seen by a cancer specialist within 2 weeks of GP consultation. Interval lengths in YAs were associated with cancer diagnosis. Patient intervals were longer among YAs than among TYAs. Our study highlights long diagnostic pathways among YAs and calls for more awareness among healthcare professionals about malignancies in this age group.
Teenagers and young adults (TYAs; aged 13-24) experience prolonged intervals to cancer diagnosis. Insight into diagnostic intervals in young adults (YAs; aged 25-39) and subgroups at risk for long intervals is lacking. We investigated the diagnostic pathway of YA cancer patients, examined patient and tumor characteristics associated with its length, and compared the patient interval length of our sample with a TYA cohort.
In this cross-sectional survey YAs diagnosed with cancer in the UK in the past five years completed a questionnaire describing their patient (time from first symptom to first doctor consultation) and healthcare interval (from first consultation until consultation with a cancer specialist), sociodemographic, and clinical characteristics. Associations between characteristics and interval length were examined and compared with previously published data in TYAs.
Among 341 YAs the patient interval lasted ≥2 weeks, ≥1 month, and ≥3 months in 60%, 42%, and 21%, respectively, compared to 48%, 27%, and 12% in the TYA group. The healthcare interval lasted ≥2 weeks, ≥1 month, and ≥3 months in 62%, 40%, and 17% of YA patients, respectively. YAs with melanoma or cervical cancer were most likely to experience long intervals, whereas YAs with breast cancer and leukemia were most likely to experience short intervals.