Age and cancer type: associations with increased odds of receiving a late diagnosis in people with advanced cancer

Sarah Mills*, Peter Donnan, Deans Buchanan, Blair H. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

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In order to deliver appropriate and timely care planning and minimise avoidable late diagnoses, clinicians need to be aware of which patients are at higher risk of receiving a late cancer diagnosis. We aimed to determine which demographic and clinical factors are associated with receiving a ‘late’ cancer diagnosis (within the last 12 weeks of life).

Retrospective cohort study of 2,443 people who died from cancer (‘cancer decedents’) in 2013–2015. Demographic and cancer registry datasets linked using patient-identifying Community Health Index numbers. Analysis used binary logistic regression, with univariate and adjusted odds ratios (SPSS v25). 

One third (n = 831,34.0%) received a late diagnosis. Age and cancer type were significantly associated with late cancer diagnosis (p < 0.001). Other demographic factors were not associated with receiving a late diagnosis. Cancer decedents with lung cancer (Odds Ratios presented in abstract are the inverse of those presented in the main text, where lung cancer is the reference category. Presented as 1/(OR multivariate)) were more likely to have late diagnosis than those with bowel (95% Confidence Interval [95%CI] Odds Ratio (OR)1.52 (OR1.12 to 2.04)), breast or ovarian (95%CI OR3.33 (OR2.27 to 5.0) or prostate (95%CI OR9.09 (OR4.0 to 20.0)) cancers. Cancer decedents aged > 85 years had higher odds of late diagnosis (95%CI OR3.45 (OR2.63 to 4.55)), compared to those aged < 65 years. 

Cancer decedents who were older and those with lung cancer were significantly more likely to receive late cancer diagnoses than those who were younger or who had other cancer types.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1174
Number of pages7
JournalBMC Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2023


  • Cancer
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Palliative care


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