Prim Health Care Res Dev. 2022 Nov 2;23:e66. doi: 10.1017/S1463423622000573.
OBJECTIVES: Symptom awareness campaigns have contributed to improved early detection of lung cancer. Previous research suggests that this may have been achieved partly by diagnosing lung cancer in those who were not experiencing symptoms of their cancer. This study aimed to explore the relationship between frequency of chest x-ray in the three years prior to diagnosis and stage at diagnosis.
SETTINGS: Lung cancer service in a UK teaching hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: Patients diagnosed with lung cancer between 2010 and 2013 were identified. The number of chest x-rays for each patient in the three years prior to diagnosis was recorded. Statistical analysis of chest x-ray frequency comparing patients with early- and late-stage disease was performed.
RESULTS: One-thousand seven-hundred fifty patients were included – 589 (33.7%) with stage I/II and 1,161 (66.3%) with stage III/IV disease. All patients had at least one chest x-ray in the six months prior to diagnosis. Those with early-stage disease had more chest x-rays in this period (1.32 vs 1.15 radiographs per patient, P = 0.009). In the period 36 months to six months prior to lung cancer diagnosis, this disparity was even greater (1.70 vs 0.92, radiographs per patient, P < 0.001).
CONCLUSIONS: Increased rates of chest x-ray are likely to contribute to earlier detection. Given the known symptom lead time many patients diagnosed through chest x-ray may not have been experiencing symptoms caused by their cancer. The number of chest x-rays performed could reflect patient and/or clinician behaviours in response to symptoms.