Explaining time elapsed prior to cancer diagnosis: patients' perspectives




Brousselle, Astrid
Breton, Mylaine
Benhadj, Lynda
Tremblay, Dominique
Provost, Sylvie
Roberge, Danièle
Pineault, Raynald
Tousignant, Pierre

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BMC Health Services Research


Background: Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. Early cancer diagnosis could improve patients’ prognosis and quality of life. This study aimed to analyze the factors influencing elapsed time between the first help-seeking trigger and cancer diagnosis with respect to the three most common and deadliest cancer types: lung, breast, and colorectal. Methods: This paper presents the qualitative component of a larger project based on a sequential explanatory design. Twenty-two patients diagnosed were interviewed, between 2011 to 2013, in oncology clinics of four hospitals in the two most populous regions in Quebec (Canada). Transcripts were analyzed using the Model of Pathways to Treatment. Results: Pre-diagnosis elapsed time and phases are difficult to appraise precisely and vary according to cancer sites and symptoms specificity. This observation makes the Model of Pathways to Treatment challenging to use to analyze patients’ experiences. Analyses identified factors contributing to elapsed time that are linked to type of cancer, to patients, and to health system organization. Conclusions: This research allowed us to identify avenues for reducing the intervals between first symptoms and cancer diagnosis. The existence of inequities in access to diagnostic services, even in a universal healthcare system, was highlighted.



Cancer, Early diagnosis, Primary care


Brousselle, A., Breton, M., Benhadj, L., Tremblay, D., Provost, S., Roberge, D., … Tousignant, P. (2017). Explaining time elapsed prior to cancer diagnosis: patients’ perspectives. BMC Health Services Research, 17, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-017-2390-1.