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Factors associated with the breast cancer diagnostic interval across five Canadian provinces: a CanIMPACT retrospective cohort study


The cancer diagnostic process can be protracted, and it is a time of great anxiety for patients. The objective of this study was to examine inter- and intra-provincial variation in diagnostic intervals and explore factors related to the variation. This was a multi-province retrospective cohort study using linked administrative health databases. All females with a diagnosis of histologically confirmed invasive breast cancer in British Columbia (2007–2010), Manitoba (2007–2011), Ontario (2007–2010), Nova Scotia (2007–2012), and Alberta (2004–2010) were included. The start of the diagnostic interval was determined using algorithms specific to whether the patient’s cancer was detected through screening. We used multivariable quantile regression analyses to assess the association between demographic, clinical and healthcare utilization factors with the diagnostic interval outcome. We found significant inter- and intra-provincial variation in the breast cancer diagnostic interval and by screen-detection status; patients who presented symptomatically had longer intervals than screen-detected patients. Interprovincial diagnostic interval variation was 17 and 16 days for screen- and symptom-detected patients, respectively, at the median, and 14 and 41 days, respectively, at the 90th percentile. There was an association of longer diagnostic intervals with increasing comorbid disease in all provinces in non-screen-detected patients but not screen-detected. Longer intervals were observed across most provinces in screen-detected patients living in rural areas. Having a regular primary care provider was not associated with a shorter diagnostic interval. Our results highlight important findings regarding the length of the breast cancer diagnostic interval, its variation within and across provinces, and its association with comorbid disease and rurality. We conclude that diagnostic processes can be context specific, and more attention should be paid to developing tailored processes so that equitable access to a timely diagnosis can be achieved.



Ruco A, Groome PA, McBride ML, Decker KM, Grunfeld E, Jiang L, Kendell C, Lofters A, Urquhart R, Vu K, Winget M. Cancers (Basel). 2023; 15(2):404. Epub 2023 Jan 7.

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