Patients with ovarian cancer often present with late-stage disease and nonspecific symptoms, but little is known about factors affecting the time to diagnosis (TTD) in the United States.
A retrospective, population-based study of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database was conducted. It included women 66 years old or older with stage II to IV epithelial ovarian cancer with at least 1 code for abdominal/pelvic pain, bloating, difficulty eating, or urinary symptoms within 1 year of the cancer diagnosis. TTD was defined from the first claim with a prespecified symptom to the ovarian cancer diagnosis. Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to assess for differences in TTD by group medians. Univariate and generalized linear models with a log-link function evaluated TTD by covariables.
For the 13,872 women analyzed, the mean and median times to diagnosis were 2.9 and 1.1 months, respectively. The median TTD differed significantly by first symptom (P < .001), number of symptoms (P < .001), and first physician specialty seen (P < .001). In a multivariable analysis, TTD differed significantly according to race/ethnicity (P < .001), geographic region (P = .001), urban-rural location (P = .031), emergency room presentation (P < .001), and number of specialties seen (P < .001). A shorter TTD was associated with a diagnosis in 2006-2010 (relative risk [RR], 0.92; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87-0.98) or 2011-2015 (RR, 0.87; 95% CI, 0.81-0.93) in comparison with 1992-1999.
The time from a symptomatic presentation to care to a diagnosis of ovarian cancer is influenced by clinical and demographic variables. This study’s findings reinforce the importance of educating all physicians on ovarian cancer symptoms to aid in diagnosis.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed once disease has spread because the classic symptoms of ovarian cancer-abdominal or pelvic pain, bloating, difficulty eating, and urinary issues-can be mistaken for other problems. This study examined the time between when women with classic ovarian cancer symptoms went to a physician and when they received a cancer diagnosis in a large database population. The authors found that the time to diagnosis differed according to the type and number of symptoms and what type of physician a woman saw as well as factors such as race, geographic location, and year of diagnosis.

© 2021 American Cancer Society.