Delays in diagnosis and treatment among children and adolescents with cancer in Canada




Few studies have investigated delays in diagnosis and treatment among children and adolescents with cancer, especially from the perspective of an entire country. Detailed understanding of delays along the continuum of cancer patient care is important in order to establish appropriate benchmarks for timely oncological care. Our objective was to characterise the different components of delay in 2,896 Canadian children and adolescents (aged 0–19 years) with cancer that were enrolled in the Treatment and Outcome Surveillance component of the Canadian Childhood Cancer Surveillance and Control Program from 1995 to 2000.


We examined median and standardised means concerning the distribution of delay times across categories of pertinent variables and over time. The word “delay” was used simply to represent a time interval, measured in days, without implying whether this interval exceeded a particular threshold of clinical acceptability.


The median times (and inter-quartile ranges) for patient, diagnosis and healthcare system delays for all cancers were 9 (1–31), 30 (13–69) and 12 (4–35) days, respectively. The median total delay was 34 (16–76) days.


Patient and referral delays were the longest time segments influencing timely diagnosis. Differences in delays were observed across age groups, cancer types and geographical regions. There was a significant trend for decreasing delays to diagnosis and treatment. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2008;51:468–474. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.