How many times does your doctor ask you to get screened for a cancer test when you go in for your regular check-ups? Do they ask you often or do you have to pester them about it? Well, more often than not people notice that their doctors aren't particularly inclined on asking their patients to get checked for cancer. While that may seem like a good enough reason to change doctors, a new study suggests that all you need to do is book an early appointment instead.
Yes, you read that right. The timing of your appointment might play an important role in whether you get screened for cancer or not. A study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore where they looked at 33 primary care centres. Around 19,254 patients met the U.S. eligibility to be screened for breast cancer at the time of the study. It was found that at 8 am, 63.7% of patients got screened for cancer, at 11 am the number dropped to 48.7%, and at 5 pm it dropped even further to 47.8% which was the lowest percentage for the day.
So, in conclusion, it was found that if a woman booked an 8 am appointment, she was a lot more likely to get screened for cancer as opposed to going in for a 5 pm appointment. To confirm the results of the study, the researchers conducted another study on colorectal cancer patients. Again they saw the same phenomenon. Out of 33,000 patients, at 8 am, 36.5% got screened for cancer, at 11 am the number went down to 31.3% and at 5 pm it went down even further to 23.4%.
The researchers then tried to figure out why the timing of the appointment mattered so much. They realised that at the start of the day, the doctors had more time so they could recommend that patients get screened for cancer. As the day prolonged, the doctors had lesser time in between appointments and this caused them to defer screenings to take up other patients instead. Alternatively, the doctor could also experience fatigue by the end of the day and since by then they might have recommended screening processes to multiple patients, they might be tired of doing the same thing over and over again.
Similarly, when patients walk in for an 8 am appointment, they have more energy to go through tests and processes as opposed to when they've been waiting to meet the doctor for a while. Because of this, they might also send out signals to the doctor that they're more interested in wrapping things up quickly.
The researchers concluded by saying that although a lot more research might be required to pinpoint exactly how time affects screening processes, it is the patient's duty to try and book an early appointment so that he can get everything done properly. And if you're unable to get an early appointment you need to be vigilant about the kind of service you're being offered. Just because the doctor is not recommending a screening doesn't mean you can't ask for one. Stay tuned for more updates.