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Background: Brain tumours often present with varied, non-specific features with other diagnoses usually being more likely.
Objective: To examine how different symptoms and patient demographics predict variations in time to brain tumour diagnosis.
Methods: Secondary analysis of brain tumour cases from National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care. We grouped neurological symptoms into 6 domains (headache, behavioural/cognitive change, focal neurology, “fits, faints, or falls”, non-specific neurological, and other/non-specific) and calculated times for patient presentation, general practitioner referral, specialist consultation and total pathway interval. We calculated odds ratios (ORs) for symptom domains comparing the slowest to other quartiles.
Results: Data were available for 226 cases. Median (inter-quartile range) time for the total pathway interval was 24 days (7-65 days). The most common presentation was focal neurology (33.2%) followed by “fits, faints or falls” and headache (both 20.8%). Headache only (OR 4.11, 95% CI 1.10, 15.5) and memory complaints (4.82, 95% CI 1.15, 20.1) were associated with slower total pathway compared to “fits, faints or falls”. General practitioners were more likely to consider that there had been avoidable delays in referring patients with headache only (OR 4.17, 95% CI 1.14, 15.3).
Conclusion: Patients presenting to primary care with headache only, or with memory complaints remain problematic with potentially avoidable delays in referral leading to a longer patient pathway. This may or may not impact on the efficacy and morbidity of therapies. Additional aids are required to help doctors differentiate when to refer headaches and memory complaints urgently for a specialist opinion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalFamily Practice
Early online date6 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2018


  • Brain tumou
  • symptoms
  • delay in accessing care,
  • National Audit of Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care
  • diagnosis


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