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Oncology

Diagnostic delays due to antibiotics linked to longer time to head and neck cancer diagnosis

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Patients who received antibiotic prescriptions within 3 months before their head and neck cancer (HNC) diagnosis experienced a significant increase in the time between the onset of symptoms and the actual diagnosis, according to a study, suggesting that antibiotic prescriptions might contribute to prolonging the diagnostic process for HNC patients.

In addition, the study found variations in antibiotic prescribing practices based on medical specialties, with primary care/internal medicine physicians more likely to prescribe antibiotics for HNC-related symptoms compared to otolaryngologists.

The retrospective study evaluated the influence of antibiotic prescription within 3 months preceding the HNC diagnosis date, revealing significant insights. Among the 7811 patients with HNC, approximately 15.6% were prescribed at least 1 antibiotic within the 3 months prior to the diagnosis; at baseline, the prescription rate stood as 8.9% within 12 to 9 months before diagnosis. However, despite this increase, the quarterly rate of antibiotic prescribing leading up to diagnosis exhibited no statistically significant change over time.

Patients who received antibiotic prescriptions within three months before their HNC diagnosis experienced a 21.1% elongation in the time elapsed between symptom onset and the eventual diagnosis.

Reference
Gallogly JA, Armstrong AT, Brinkmeier JV, et al. Association Between Antibiotic Prescribing and Time to Diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancer. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2023;doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2023.2423. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37615970.

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