Background The COVID-19 pandemic led to changes in patterns of presentation to Emergency Departments. Child health professionals were concerned that this could contribute to the delayed diagnosis of life-threatening conditions, including childhood cancer (CC) and type 1 diabetes (T1DM).
Objectives Our multicentre, UK-based service evaluation assessed diagnostic intervals and disease severity for these conditions.
Methods We collected presentation route, timing and disease severity for children with newly diagnosed CC in three principal treatment centres between January-June 2020 and T1DM in four centres between January-July 2020. We compared these to the corresponding period in 2019. The impact of lockdown on total diagnostic interval (TDI), patient interval (PI), system interval (SI) and disease severity were evaluated.
Results Children with new diagnosis of CC (n=253) and T1DM (n=187) were included in the analysis. Overall there was a 17% reduction (138 vs 115) in number of incident CC cases and 9% reduction (98 vs 89) in T1DM cases between 2019 and 2020, with some regional variation. No significant differences in gender, ethnic background or age at diagnosis between study periods were observed. The route to diagnosis and severity of illness at presentation were unchanged across all time periods.
Median diagnostic interval for CCs during lockdown was comparable to that in 2019 (TDI 4.6, PI 1.1 and SI 2.1 weeks), except for an increased PI during pre-lockdown period Jan-Mar 2020 (2.7 weeks) (table 1). Median diagnostic interval for T1DM during lockdown was similar to that in 2019 (TDI 16 vs 15 and PI 14 vs 14 days), except for an increased PI in pre-lockdown period Jan-Mar 2020 (21 days) (table 2).
Conclusions There is no evidence of diagnostic delay or increased illness severity for CC or T1DM during the first lockdown in the participating centres. This provides reassuring data for children and families with these life-changing conditions. Data collection at a more comprehensive national level would provide greater clarity on diagnostic intervals.
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