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Nearly 20% of new colorectal cancer diagnoses made during hospital admissions


About 20% of newly diagnosed colorectal cancer (CRC) patients only find out they have the disease when their symptoms become so bad they have to make a trip to the hospital, a new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) shows.

Researchers examined Ontario adults 20 years of age and older newly diagnosed with CRC between 1993 and 2001. They calculated the proportion that came to hospital with an acute intestinal obstruction, perforation at the site of the tumour, or who required emergency admission to hospital. These types of situations signal advanced stage disease.


  • The proportion of newly diagnosed CRC patients with an obstruction, perforation, or emergency admission decreased over the study period – from 24% between 1993-1995, to 19% between 1996-1998, and 18% between 1999-2001.
  • The adjusted relative decrease in the proportion of new CRC patients with an obstruction, perforation, or emergency admission between 1993 and 2001 was 31%.

“These decreases are encouraging, but we certainly cannot ignore the fact that nearly 20% of new colorectal cancer patients in Ontario still end up as emergency surgery patients before they know about their disease,” said study lead author and ICES senior scientist Dr. Linda Rabeneck.

“Although we’ve made strides in improving colorectal cancer screening rates and in better managing the disease, these results show that much greater emphasis on screening is still needed so we can prevent the disease or catch more cases early on when the cancer is easier to treat.

”The study, “Temporal trends in new diagnoses of colorectal cancer with obstruction, perforation, or emergency admission in Ontario: 1993-2001”, is in the March 2005 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Author affiliations: ICES (all authors); Sunnybrook and Women’s College Health Sciences Centre (Drs. Rabeneck and Paszat); Departments of Medicine (Dr. Rabeneck) and Radiation Oncology (Dr. Paszat), University of Toronto.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.


  • Julie Argles
  • Media Relations Officer, ICES
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