Time to Cancer Diagnosis in Young Women Presenting to Surgeons with Breast-Related Symptoms: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Tehillah S. Menes, Tal Sella, Gabriel Chodick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Delay in diagnosis may be a contributing factor to the observed correlation between young age and advanced disease. We examined time to cancer diagnosis in young women presenting to surgeons with breast-related complaints. Materials and Methods: This population-based cohort study included all women aged 18-44 presenting to a surgeon with breast-related complaints between 2005 and 2015 in a large health care plan (n = 157,264). Data included demographics, diagnosis codes, and workup. Cancer diagnosis was ascertained from the national cancer registry. Time to breast imaging and biopsy was compared between the different age groups. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the association between age and delay to biopsy while adjusting for possible confounders. Results: During the 1st year after the visit, 45,434 (29%) women had breast imaging; 5,766 (3.7%) women had a breast biopsy; and 676 (0.43%) were diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall, time to first breast imaging and biopsy did not differ significantly between the age groups. But nonspecific visit codes (other than breast mass) were associated with delays to imaging and biopsy. Among, women diagnosed with breast cancer, age under 40 years (odds ratio [OR]: 2.3, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.4-3.9), being postpartum (OR: 2.6, 95% CI: 1.1-5.9), and a nonspecific visit code (OR: 8.3, 95% CI: 4.9-14.2) were associated with delay. Conclusions: Symptomatic women with lower a-priori likelihood of malignancy (younger age, postpartum, or nonspecific visit code) are at significantly greater risk of delayed diagnosis of cancer. Physicians should be aware of the diagnostic challenge in young women presenting with nonspecific symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-502
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • breast cancer
  • delay
  • diagnosis
  • young

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)


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