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Factors associated with receipt of symptom screening in the year after cancer diagnosis in a universal health care system: a retrospective cohort study

Mahar AL, Davis LE, Bubis LD, Li Q, Sutradhar R, Coburn NG, Barbera L. Curr Oncol. 2019; 26(1):e8-16. Epub 2019 Feb 1.


Purpose — Patient-reported symptom data are collected prospectively by a provincial cancer agency to mitigate the significant symptom burden that patients with cancer experience. However, an assessment of whether such symptom screening occurs uniformly for those patients has yet to be performed. In the present study, we investigated patient, disease, and health system factors associated with receipt of symptom screening in the year after a cancer diagnosis.

Methods — Patients diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2014 were identified. We measured whether 1 or more symptom screenings were recorded in the year after diagnosis. A multivariable modified Poisson regression with robust error variance was used to identify predictors [age, comorbidity, rurality, socioeconomic status, immigration status, cancer site, registration at a regional cancer centre (cc), and year of diagnosis] of being screened for symptoms.

Results — Of 425,905 patients diagnosed with cancer, 163,610 (38%) had 1 or more symptom screening records in the year after diagnosis, and 75% survived at least 1 year. We identified variability in symptom screening by primary cancer site, regional cc, age, sex, comorbidity, material deprivation, rurality of residence, and immigration status. Patients who had been diagnosed with melanoma or endocrine cancers, who were not registered at a regional cc, who lived in the most urban areas, who were elderly, and who were immigrants were least likely to undergo symptom screening after diagnosis.

Conclusions — Our evaluation of the implementation of a population-based symptom screening program in a universal health care system identified populations who are at risk for not receiving screening and who are therefore future targets for improvements in population symptom screening and better management of cancer-related symptoms at diagnosis.

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