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Healthcare utilisation in general practice and hospitals in the year preceding a diagnosis of cancer recurrence or second primary cancer: a population-based register study

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BACKGROUND: The organisation of cancer follow-up is under scrutiny in many countries, and general practice is suggested to become more involved. A central focus is timely detection of recurring previous cancer and new second primary cancer. More knowledge on the patient pathway before cancer recurrence and second primary cancer is warranted to ensure the best possible organisation of follow-up. We aimed to describe the healthcare utilisation in the year preceding a diagnosis of cancer recurrence or second primary cancer.

METHODS: This nationwide register study comprises patients diagnosed with bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, malignant melanoma and ovarian cancer in Denmark in 2008-2016. The frequency of healthcare contacts during the 12 months preceding a cancer recurrence or second primary cancer was estimated and compared to the frequency of cancer survivors in cancer remission. The main analyses were stratified on sex and healthcare setting. Furthermore, two sub-analyses were stratified on 1) sex, healthcare setting and age group and on 2) sex, healthcare setting and comorbidity status.

RESULTS: The study population consisted of 7832 patients with recurrence and 2703 patients with second primary cancer. On average, the patients were in contact with general practice one time per month in the 12th month preceding a new cancer diagnosis (recurrence or second primary cancer). Increasing contact rates were seen from 7 months before diagnosis in general practice and from 12 months before diagnosis in hospitals. This pattern was more pronounced in patients with cancer recurrence, younger patients and patients with no comorbidity. For instance, the contact rate ratios for hospital contacts in non-comorbid women with recurrence demonstrated 30% more contacts in the 12th month before recurrence and 127% more contacts in the 2nd month before recurrence.

CONCLUSIONS: The results show that cancer survivors are already seen in general practice on a regular basis. The increasing contact rates before a diagnosis of cancer recurrence or second primary cancer indicate that a window of opportunity exists for more timely diagnosis; this is seen in both general practice and in hospitals. Thus, cancer survivors may benefit from improvements in the organisation of cancer follow-up.

TidsskriftBMC Health Services Research
StatusUdgivet - 5 dec. 2019

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