Cancer survival and the duration of symptoms. An analysis of possible forms of the risk function

A. Maguire, M. Porta, N. Malats, M. Gallén, J. L. Piñol, E. Fernandez, Project Investigators ISDS

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50 Citations (Scopus)


The time interval between onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of cancer [symptom to diagnosis interval (SDI), or duration of symptoms] is a highly complex variable reflecting patient behaviour, the clinical course, the functioning of the health system and tumour biology. In order to assess possible forms of the risk function of SDI upon cancer survival whilst taking into account the effects of age, sex, tumour site and stage at diagnosis, 1887 symptomatic cases of lung, breast, stomach, colon, rectal, bladder cancer and lymphomas registered in the Tumour Registry of the Hospital del Mar (Barcelona) were analysed by means of survival curves and Cox proportional hazards regression. Subjects (mean age 64 years) were followed for a median length of 15 months after diagnosis (follow-up rate 93.5%). SDI showed a weak relationship with tumour stage at diagnosis and with survival: out of the seven sites studied, only in breast cancer was tumour extension at diagnosis significantly influenced by duration of symptoms, and only lung and rectal cancers showed a detectable form of the risk function of SDI upon survival; neither was linear, and for rectal cancer the relationship was complexly related with tumour stage. Hence, results show that forms of the risk function of duration of symptoms on cancer survival are specific to tumour sites, and that the interval should not be represented as a linear, continuous term. Studies analysing more complex sets of factors, processes and forms of the SDI function are needed. © 1994.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-792
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994


  • cancer
  • diagnostic delay
  • duration of symptoms
  • epidemiological methods
  • lymphomas
  • survival


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