- Emergency presentation occurred in 29 percent of colorectal cancer cases.
- African-Americans were more likely to have an emergency diagnosis.
- Patients in high-poverty areas were more likely to have an emergency diagnosis.
“Overall, there are high rates of emergency presentation of colorectal cancer in the United States,” said Sandi L. Pruitt, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the department of clinical sciences at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Screening for colorectal cancer using tests including colonoscopy is recommended for all healthy, asymptomatic adults starting at age 50. But these high rates of emergencies indicate that there are multiple missed opportunities for screening. As a result, many patients are not diagnosed until they have an emergency, such as an obstruction or perforation of the bowel, which leads to more complications and a higher risk for death from cancer.”
Pruitt and colleagues evaluated disparities in emergency colorectal cancer presentation using nationally representative Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results–Medicare data from 1992 to 2005 of U.S. adults aged 66 and older with invasive colorectal cancer.
They identified 88,859 patients with colorectal cancer, and of those, 29 percent presented as emergencies. Of these, 81.3 percent had an emergency admission, 31.6 percent were obstructions and 4.2 percent were perforations. In unadjusted analyses, African-American patients with colorectal cancer were 64 percent more likely to present as emergency cases, and those patients with colorectal cancer living in census tracts with the highest poverty rate (greater than or equal 20 percent versus less than 10 percent poverty) were 31 percent more likely to present as emergencies.
After researchers statistically controlled for multiple factors including cancer stage, patient health status and sociodemographic factors, African-Americans were 29 percent more likely to present with emergency cases, and those living in census tracts with the highest poverty rate were 10 percent more likely to present with emergency colorectal cancer.
“We already know that African-Americans and economically disadvantaged populations face an increased risk for death from colorectal cancer,” Pruitt said. “In future research, we will attempt to understand how emergency presentation of colorectal cancer contributes to racial and economic disparities in death from colorectal cancer.”
Funding sources for this study include the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources.
About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.