Why? Patients who blow off appointments for cancer symptoms are 12% more likely to die within a year of diagnosis, British researchers report.
Those most likely to skip appointments are men under 30 or over 85, people living in poor areas, and those with gastrointestinal symptoms, the study found.
For the study, the researchers collected data on more than 100,000 patients who had been referred by about 100 different general doctors in the north of England.
Most patients (95%), kept their appointment, but 5% did not. Although only 1 in 18 of the patients who skipped their appointment was diagnosed with cancer, these patients fared significantly worse.
Among the patients with cancer who missed their appointment, 35% had advanced disease, compared with 19% of those with cancer who kept their appointment, which most likely accounted for the worse outcomes, the researchers found.
"Non-attendance at urgent referral appointments for suspected cancer involves a minority of patients, but happens in somewhat predictable groups," said researcher Dr. Peter Knapp, from the department of health sciences at the University of York and Hull York Medical School.
"Our research suggests that more could be done to identify individuals at risk of non-attendance and offer extra support," he said in a university news release.
The report was published Sept. 12 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.