Association of Self-reported Presenting Symptoms With Timeliness of Help-Seeking Among Adolescents and Young Adults With Cancer in the BRIGHTLIGHT Study

Minjoung Koo*, Georgios Lyratzopoulos, Annie Herbert, Gary A Abel, Rachel M Taylor, Julie Barber, Faith Gibson, Jeremy Whelan, Lorna A Fern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Importance Evidence regarding the presenting symptoms of cancer in adolescents and young adults can support the development of early diagnosis interventions. Objective To examine common presenting symptoms in adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 24 years who subsequently received a diagnosis of cancer and potential variation in time to help-seeking by presenting symptom. Design, Setting, and Participants This multicenter study is a cross-sectional analysis of the BRIGHTLIGHT cohort study, which was conducted across hospitals in England. Participants included adolescents and young adults aged 12 to 24 years with cancer. Information on 17 prespecified presenting symptoms and the interval between symptom onset and help-seeking (the patient interval) was collected through structured face-to-face interviews and was linked to national cancer registry data. Data analysis was performed from January 2018 to August 2019. Exposures Self-reported presenting symptoms. Main Outcomes and Measures The main outcomes were frequencies of presenting symptoms and associated symptom signatures by cancer group and the proportion of patients with each presenting symptom whose patient interval was longer than 1 month. Results The study population consisted of 803 adolescents and young adults with valid symptom information (443 male [55%]; 509 [63%] aged 19-24 years; 705 [88%] White). The number of symptoms varied by cancer group: for example, 88 patients with leukemia (86%) presented with 2 or more symptoms, whereas only 9 patients with melanoma (31%) presented with multiple symptoms. In total, 352 unique symptom combinations were reported, with the 10 most frequent combinations accounting for 304 patients (38%). Lump or swelling was reported by more than one-half the patients (419 patients [52%; 95% CI, 49%-56%]). Other common presenting symptoms across all cancers were extreme tiredness (308 patients [38%; 95% CI, 35%-42%]), unexplained pain (281 patients [35%; 95% CI, 32%-38%]), night sweats (192 patients [24%; 95% CI, 21%-27%]), lymphadenopathy (191 patients [24%; 95% CI, 21%-27%]), and weight loss (190 patients [24%; 95% CI, 21%-27%]). The relative frequencies of presenting symptoms also varied by cancer group; some symptoms (such as lump or swelling) were highly prevalent across several cancer groups (seen in >50% of patients with lymphomas, germ cell cancers, carcinomas, bone tumors, and soft-tissue sarcomas). More than 1 in 4 patients (27%) reported a patient interval longer than 1 month; this varied from 6% (1 patient) for fits and seizures to 43% (18 patients) for recurrent infections. Conclusions and Relevance Adolescents and young adults with cancer present with a broad spectrum of symptoms, some of which are shared across cancer types. These findings point to discordant presenting symptom prevalence estimates when information is obtained from patient report vs health records and indicate the need for further symptom epidemiology research in this population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2015437
Pages (from-to)e2015437
Number of pages11
JournalJAMA Network Open
Volume(2020) 3
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2020

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