Patterns of hospital visits could help identify patients suffering from a precursor condition to myeloma, a UK conference heard earlier this week.
A study presented at the 2019 National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Conference in Glasgow found that people with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) made almost twice as many visits to hospital as other people of the same age.
Myeloma is almost always preceded by MGUS, but the condition is rarely identified. Researchers at the University of York said analysing the individuals’ out-patient appointment pattern could help to spot myeloma at the earliest stage.
Study lead Dr Maxine Lamb, a research fellow at the university’s department of health sciences, said: “MGUS is a benign condition that doesn’t have obvious symptoms. It is usually only diagnosed incidentally when doctors are investigating other problems, so around 90% of cases remain undiagnosed.
“In the majority of people, this condition doesn’t progress to cancer. However, virtually all people with myeloma, as well as a proportion of patients with some types of lymphoma, had MGUS before their cancer developed. That’s why we’re interested in spotting this condition.”
Dr Lamb and her team’s study included 2,219 people who had MGUS and 22,190 matched controls. The researchers examined data on out-patient hospital visits before and after MGUS diagnosis and compared it with hospital visits made by the control group.
They found that, on average, MGUS patients had 31 visits per 100 people per month in the three years prior to diagnosis. This compared with 16 visits per 100 people per month among the control group.
The researchers also identified stronger patterns in certain medical specialties: MGUS patients were 5.5 times more likely to visit a nephrology clinic, 3.7 times more likely to visit rheumatology and 2.4 times as likely to visit dermatology.
Dr Lamb said: “Once someone is diagnosed with MGUS they are monitored for signs that that they are developing myeloma. Previous research suggests that myeloma patients whose MGUS had been diagnosed have better survival and we know that, in general, early diagnosis improves cancer survival chances.
“This study suggests a possible way to spot more cases of MGUS and this could give us the opportunity to try to diagnose more cases of myeloma, and some types of lymphoma, at an earlier stage.”
NRCI Cancer Conference: Abstract number 2571, “Hospital activity before and after diagnosis of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS)”. Lamb M, et al. poster presentation.
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