Exploring patient, practitioner and general population preferences towards diagnostic tests for cancer

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Project Summary

Delayed diagnosis for many cancers is associated with poor health outcomes and survival, and UK cancer survival figures lags behind those of other developed countries.Early cancer diagnosis is associated with better outcomes and can reduce the high costs of complex end-stage treatments.  Availability of diagnostic tests within GP surgeries may be one way to triage patients and expedite early cancer diagnosis, but it is unclear to what extent such diagnostic strategies are preferable to those currently available. Diagnostic procedures use different resources, are subject to different risks and have different levels of accuracy, implying that the choice between different tests requires a trade-off between the risks and benefits of the alternative procedures.

This PhD project will develop a set of choice based experiments to explore the preferences of patients, practitioners and the general public towards different diagnostic test strategies and to assess the risk-benefit trade-offs. The primary objectives of the PhD are to: 1) examine the current evidence relating to the use of discrete choice experiments in the field of cancer; 2) identify any potential attributes of a diagnostic test (e.g. type, test accuracy, delivery and side effects) that may affect preferences towards different tests; 3) determine the relative importance of these attributes for the different stakeholders; and 3) investigate the willingness of  stakeholders to make trade-offs between perceived advantages and disadvantages of the tests when choosing their preferred diagnostic test using discrete choice experiments.

The use of discrete choice experiments is becoming increasingly popular within health economics; however due to the complexity of presenting and understanding risks and capturing the true preferences of individuals these studies are subject to a few common methodological concerns. In order to address these issues, this PhD will also aim to incorporate a nested study to explore further the methodological challenges of eliciting preferences for the risks associated with diagnostic tests for cancer.

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