Waiting times for breast cancer diagnosis

August 06, 2001

Waiting times from abnormal breast screen to diagnosis in 7 Canadian provinces
--- I.A. Olivotto et al
Breast cancer diagnosis: What are we waiting for?
--- P. Rasuli

Delay to breast cancer diagnosis following an abnormal screening result can lead to great anxiety for patients. In their study of 13 958 women with an abnormal screening result who attended 1 of 7 provincially organized breast cancer screening programs in Canada, the authors found the median time from screening to first assessment was 2.6 weeks and the time from screening to diagnosis 3.7 weeks.

The authors also found that 10% of the women waited 11.3 weeks or longer for a diagnosis. Among women who had a biopsy, those found to have cancer had shorter waiting times than women with benign findings, which, say the authors, suggest physicians try to expedite investigations depending on the degree of suspicion of cancer. However, even with these efforts, the authors report that 10% of the women with breast cancer waited 12 weeks or longer for the diagnosis.

In a related commentary, Pasteur Rasuli comments on the benefits of additional diagnostic test, including the freeing up of scarce surgical resources by removing the large number of women with false-positive screening results from the surgical waiting list.

Dr. Ivo Olivotto, Screening Mammography Program of British Columbia and Division of Radiology , University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Dr. Pasteur Rasuli, Department of Radiology, Ottawa Hospital, General Campus, Ottawa, 613-737-8098, email prasuli@ottawahospital.on.ca

Canadian Medical Association Journal

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