Validity of a rapid diagnostic programme for head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp. 2020 Sep 15:S0001-6519(20)30151-5. doi: 10.1016/j.otorri.2020.06.006. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVES: Given the epidemiological knowledge of squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck, the prognosis in survival according to the staging at diagnosis and the absence of screening programmes that have proven cost-effective, we undertook a rapid diagnosis programme. The objective of this study was to analyse whether a rapid diagnostic programme (RDP) to be used by General Practitioners (GP) would achieve a change in the proportion of diagnoses in early versus late stages in these tumours.

METHODS: A prospective observational study of patients diagnosed with a tumour of ENT location in our centre, was carried out for 24 consecutive months. A "suspicion algorithm" was designed and we established a rapid remission route for these patients. The data obtained (age, sex, toxic substance consumption, initial manifestations, tumour location and extension) were compared with the data of the patients in our ENT Service database diagnosed in the 4years prior to the start of the study.

RESULTS: 199 patients were included, and 82 ENT tumours diagnosed. The GPs sent to the Hospital via the RDP a total of 136 patients and 35 (26.1%) had a tumour. However, most of the tumours diagnosed in this period by our ENT Department (47 patients, 57.3% of all tumours diagnosed), were not suspected by the GP and were not sent via the RDP. Of the patients, 27% were diagnosed in stages i and ii, and 73% in stages iii and iv, there were no significant differences with the control group. The most frequent initial signs and symptoms were dysphonia, cervical mass and dysphagia, the relationship between initial symptom and stage at the moment of diagnosis was analysed, and in neither case did we obtain any significant variation.

CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of a rapid diagnosis pathway for patients who, according to the algorithm created, had a suspected head and neck cancer, has not led to an increase in the diagnosis of these tumours in early stages or a decrease in diagnoses in advanced stages.