Experiences along the diagnostic pathway for patients with advanced lung cancer in the USA: a qualitative study.

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Zigman Suchsland, Monica  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7007-6973
Goulart, Bernardo HL 

BACKGROUND: Most patients with lung cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages. However, the advent of oral targeted therapies has improved the prognosis of many patients with lung cancer. PURPOSE: We aimed to understand the diagnostic experiences of patients with advanced lung cancer with oncogenic mutations. METHODS: Qualitative interviews were conducted with patients with advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with oncogenic alterations. Patients were recruited from online support groups within the USA. Interviews were conducted remotely or in person. Analysis used an iterative inductive and deductive process. Themes were mapped to the Model for Pathways to Treatment. RESULTS: 40 patients (12 male and 28 female) with a median age of 48 were included. We identified nine distinct themes. During the 'patient interval', individuals became concerned about symptoms, but often attributed them to other causes. Prolonged or more severe symptoms prompted care-seeking. During the 'primary care interval', doctors initially treated for illnesses other than cancer. Discovery of an imaging abnormality was a turning point in diagnostic pathways. Occasionally, severity of symptoms prompted patients to seek emergency care. During the 'secondary care interval', obtaining tissue samples was pivotal in confirming diagnosis. Delays in accessing oncology care sometimes led to patient distress. Obtaining genetic testing was crucial in directing patients to receive targeted treatments. CONCLUSIONS: Patients experienced multiple different routes to their diagnosis. Some patients perceived delays, inefficiencies and lack of coordination, which could be distressing. Shifting the stage of diagnosis of lung cancer to optimise the impact of targeted therapies will require concerted efforts in early detection.

cancer genetics, qualitative research, respiratory tract tumours, Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung, Female, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Primary Health Care, Qualitative Research, Secondary Care, United States
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BMJ Open
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Cancer Research UK (C8640/A23385)