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BMJ Open. 2014 Nov 19;4(11):e005720. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005720.

A case-control study comparing the incidence of early symptoms in pancreatic and biliary tract cancer.

Author information

1
Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, University College London, London, UK.
2
Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and biliary tract cancers (BTC) are often diagnosed late and at an advanced stage. Population-based screening programmes do not exist and diagnosis is primarily dependent on symptom recognition. Recently symptom-based cancer decision support tools (CDSTs) have been introduced into primary care practices throughout the UK to support general practitioners (GPs) in identifying patients with suspected PDAC. However, future refinement of these tools to improve their diagnostic accuracy is likely to be necessary.

SETTING:

The Health Improvement Network (THIN) is a primary care database, which includes more than 11 million electronic patient records, from 562 GP practices in the UK.

PARTICIPANTS:

All patients with a diagnosis of PDAC or BTC between 2000 and 2010 were included in the study along with six matched controls; 2773 patients with PDAC, 848 patients with BTC and 15,395 controls.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:

The primary aim of this study was to determine the early symptom profiles of PDAC and BTC. Secondary aims included comparing early symptom trends between BTC and PDAC, defining symptom onset in PDAC and evaluating trends in routine blood tests nearest to the time of diagnosis.

RESULTS:

In the year prior to diagnosis, patients with PDAC visited their GP on a median of 18 (IQR 11-27) occasions. PDAC was associated with 11 alarm symptoms and BTC with 8. Back pain (OR 1.33 (95% CI 1.18 to 1.49) p<0.001), lethargy (1.42 (95% CI 1.25 to 1.62) p<0.001) and new onset diabetes (OR 2.46 (95% CI 2.16 to 2.80)) were identified as unique features of PDAC.

CONCLUSIONS:

PDAC and BTC are associated with numerous early alarm symptoms. CDSTs are therefore likely to be useful in identifying these tumours at an early stage. Inclusion of unique symptoms, symptoms with an early onset and routinely performed blood tests is likely to further improve the sensitivity of these tools.

KEYWORDS:

PRIMARY CARE

PMID:
25410605
PMCID:
PMC4244441
DOI:
10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005720
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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