Patient and health care delays in malignant melanoma
Sammanfattning: Background: Unlike other cancers, malignant melanoma (MM) is generally visible and can be easily and effectively cured if treated in time. Optimal cure of MM requires early detection, diagnosis, and treatment, which improves prognosis. However, patients as well as the health care organization and its professionals contribute to delayed treatment in various ways.Aims and objectives: The general aim of this PhD thesis was to explore reasons for delay in care seeking, diagnosis, and treatment of malignant melanoma. The specific objectives to be addressed wereTo explore patients’ decision making about seeking care for malignant melanomaTo identify specific patterns in the decision-making process to seek care for suspect melanoma, as narrated by women and menTo compare self-reported decision making coping styles between men and women in various ages, who live with or without a partner and are diagnosed with various stages of malignant melanoma in northern Sweden.To describe and compare patients diagnosed with MM, depending on their initial contact with care, and with regard to age, sex, and MM type and thickness, and to explore pathways and time intervals between clinics from the initial contact to diagnosis and treatment.Methods: In studies I and II, 21 and 30 patients, respectively, were interviewed about their decision making to seek care for MM. Study II focused on gender patterns in this decision making. The interviews were analysed using Grounded Theory (I) and qualitative content analysis (II). Study III included 270 people with MM who completed a translated questionnaire (Melbourne Decision Making Questionnaire) about coping styles in decision making. In study IV the pathways and time delay in health care for 71 people with MM were explored. Studies I and II were qualitative, whereas studies III and IV were quantitative.Results: In study I, the insights into severity and feelings of fear and existential threat were identified as key motivators for patients to decide to seek care for a suspected melanoma. Results in study II showed that gender constructions influenced the care-seeking behaviour. Women acknowledged the skin changes and attempted self-care first. They delayed care seeking due to family responsibilities. Men seldom acknowledged the suspicious skin change, but sought care immediately after prompting, and most often complied with relatives’ advice to seek care. Study III showed that men generally scored higher in buck-passing, while women and those living without a partner scored higher in hypervigilance. Participants with nodular melanoma (NM), a rapid-growing form of MM, scored higher in vigilance than those diagnosed as in situ melanoma. No correlation was found between tumour thickness and coping styles. Some differences concerning treatment of MM were found in study IV between people who initially had sought care at primary health care centres (PHC) and those who had sought care at dermatological and specialist clinics (Derm). Thicker tumours as well as NM were more common in the PHC group. A larger proportion of patients from PHCs were primarily excided within the primary health care; however, almost all of them were later referred to surgical clinics for wide excision. Patients within the PHC group also had to wait longer for the registered results of histopathological assessments. In general, women waited a shorter time for primary excision, and older people waited longer for wide excision.Conclusions: Time delay of diagnosis and treatment of MM is still common, and crucial to decrease. Future interventions should include gender aspects to influence people to seek care earlier. In health care, time delay could be decreased by facilitating access for patients with suspected skin melanomas, but also by reducing unnecessary referrals. Moreover, organizational changes whereby general practitioners and primary health care nurses are supported in using new technology for faster diagnoses and management of MM in collaboration with specialist clinics should be considered. Easy access and frequently used guidelines for MM could further decrease delay. Lastly, more efficient transfer and registration of laboratory results and referrals could decrease delay and improve patient safety.
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