Associations between diagnostic time intervals and health-related quality of life
Associations between diagnostic time intervals and health-related quality of life, clinical anxiety and depression in adolescents and young adults with cancer
1 November 2023
The length of time between first presenting with cancer symptoms and receiving a diagnosis can have an impact on a patient’s outcome after receiving treatment. This is called the “diagnostic interval”. However, the association between this and a patient’s reported outcome isn’t well understood amongst adolescents and young adults with cancer. The patient’s reported outcome is how the person says their health-related quality of life has changed and their experiences of feeling anxiety or depression.
To try and better understand the connection this study analysed 830 interview responses from patients aged between 12 and 24 after their cancer diagnosis. This data had previously been collected by a National Institute for Health Research funded programme called BERIGHTLIGHT which was trying to find out if and what specialist care could help improve treatment outcomes for younger patients with cancer. The patients were asked about their health-related quality of life as well as their experiences of anxiety and depression after their diagnosis.
By running statistical analysis on this data we were able to show the different associations “diagnostic intervals” have with younger people’s quality of life and experiences of anxiety and depression. Here, longer intervals where more time elapsed between the onset of symptoms and receiving a diagnosis were associated with poorer self-reported patient outcomes. This means that prolonged periods of time during the “diagnostic interval” amongst younger patients with cancer posed an increased risk of anxiety and depression and a lower quality of life. Specifically, patients who saw a doctor after longer than 1 month from the first onset of symptoms had a greater association with depression than those who saw a doctor in less than 1 month. Three or more consultations with a GP before being referred for cancer was associated with greater levels of anxiety compared to only 1-2 consultations. And two or more months passing between the first onset of symptoms and the first oncology appointment was associated with a health-related lower quality of life.