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Presentation of childhood cancers to a paediatric shared care unit


Objective To describe the pathways by which children with cancer present to a shared care oncology unit.

Design A population-based retrospective cohort study of children diagnosed with cancer between the years 2004 and 2014.

Setting District General Hospital with a level 2 Paediatric Oncology Shared Care Unit.

Patients 93 children aged 0–15 years.

Outcome measures Time to presentation (TTP) was defined as time from initial symptoms to time seen by secondary paediatrics. Time to diagnosis (TTD) was defined as time from initial symptoms to diagnosis at a Principal Treatment Centre. Patient pathways to diagnosis were mapped and routes for different cancers were compared.

Results Only 2/93 cases (2.1%) in 10 years were referred via the 2-week pathway. Most presentations were acute via immediate general practitioner (GP) referral or self-referral to the emergency department 62/93 (67%). Leukaemia presented acutely and via the GP more often than via self-presentation to the emergency department 21/28 (75% vs 25%), while solid tumours were self-referred to the emergency department 21/34 (62% vs 38%) more often than via the GP. TTP and TTD were calculated for 87 patients. Wilms’ tumour demonstrated the shortest median TTP of 7 days and TTD of 16 days. Lymphoma had the longest TTD, with TTP 107 days and TTD 120 days. Pathways to diagnosis via other specialties were longer.

Conclusion The majority of children diagnosed with cancer present via acute services, with the route varying between tumour types. Only two cases in 10 years were referred via the 2-week pathway, thus challenging its relevance in the paediatric population.

  • Oncology
  • General Paediatrics
  • Health Service
  • Haematology

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