Breast Cancer, Health Care Systems / 06.04.2015 Interview with: Dr. Karla Unger-Saldaña Unit of Epidemiology Instituto Nacional de Cancerología Mexico City, Mexico. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Unger-Saldaña: Even though Breast Cancer is most common in the developed world, most cancer deaths actually occur in developing regions. This is mainly because patients are diagnosed in advanced stages, with poor chances of survival. Most studies have shown that long times between symptom discovery and treatment start (total delay) are associated with advanced clinical stage. Like total delay, patient delay -a prolonged time between symptom discovery and the first medical consultation- has also shown to be associated with advanced clinical stage. But the impact of health system delay -the time between the first clinical consultation and the start of cancer treatment- is less clear. Studies have shown contradictory findings. For example, studies in developed countries have found the reverse association: advanced stages associated with short times between first medical consultation and treatment start. This has been attributed to the ability of doctors to quickly identify patients with advanced cancer and somehow accelerate their care. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Unger-Saldaña: In this study, done among 886 patients, we found that the majority started cancer treatment in advanced stages, with only 15% being diagnosed in stages 0 and I. Also, we found long delays for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in most cases. The median time between symptom discovery and cancer treatment start was 7 months. The longest subinterval was that between the first medical consultation and diagnosis confirmation, which had a median of 4 months. The most relevant result was that not only was patient delay associated with advanced stage, but also health system delay. For every additional month of health system delay, the probability of starting treatment in advanced stage was increased by 1%. (more…)