The primary objective was to determine the proportion of individuals with a new diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) in Ontario in whom the cancer was screen-detected. The secondary objectives were to determine the cancer stage at diagnosis and the indications for the procedure in patients who received their first colonoscopy.
Individuals admitted to a hospital with a new diagnosis of CRC were randomly selected after stratifying by hospital type (teaching or community). The Canadian Institute for Health Information's Discharge Abstract Database was used to identify individuals with a first diagnosis of CRC during calendar year (CY) 2000, and Ontario Health Insurance Plan data were used to identify people 50 to 74 years of age who had their first colonoscopy during CY 2000. Up to 20 individuals were selected for each group (CRC or colonoscopy) in each of seven randomly selected community hospitals and three randomly selected teaching hospitals. Data were abstracted from the hospital charts.
The hospital charts of 152 patients with a new diagnosis of CRC were examined. Of the 133 patients in whom screening status could be determined, eight had screen-detected cancers (6.0%). Of the 99 patients (65% of the sample) in whom stage could be determined, 43 (43.4%) had advanced disease (tumour-node-metastasis stage III or IV) at diagnosis. The hospital charts of 184 patients who underwent their first colonoscopy were examined. Of the 175 patients in whom the indication for colonoscopy could be determined, 45 underwent the procedure for screening purposes, ten were for diagnostic workup of anemia, and 120 for evaluation of symptoms.
The low proportion (6%) of screen-detected CRC and the high proportion of patients (43.4%) with advanced disease at diagnosis reflect the lack of an organized screening program.