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Age-related and socioeconomic inequalities in timeliness of referral and start of treatment in colorectal cancer: a population-based analysis


Background Poorer colorectal cancer survival in the UK than in similar countries may be partly due to delays in the care pathway. To address this, cancer waiting time targets were established. We investigated if socio-demographic inequalities exist in meeting cancer waiting times for colorectal cancer.

Methods We identified primary colorectal cancers (International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision C18–C20; n=35 142) diagnosed in the period 2001–2010 in the Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry area. Using multivariable logistic regression, we calculated likelihood of referral and treatment within target by age group and deprivation quintile.

Results 48% of the patients were referred to hospital within target (≤14 days from general practitioner (GP) referral to first hospital appointment); 52% started treatment within 31 days of diagnosis; and 44% started treatment within 62 days of GP referral. Individuals aged 60–69, 70–79 and 80+ years were significantly more likely to attend a first hospital appointment within 14 days than those aged <60 years (adjusted OR=1.23, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.34; adjusted OR=1.19, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.29; adjusted OR=1.30, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.42, respectively). Older age was significantly associated with lower likelihood of starting treatment within 31 days of diagnosis and 62 days of referral. Deprivation was not related to referral within target but was associated with lower likelihood of starting treatment within 31 days of diagnosis or 62 days of referral (most vs least: adjusted OR=0.82, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.91).

Conclusions Older patients with colorectal cancer were less likely to experience referral delays but more likely to experience treatment delays. More deprived patients were more likely to experience treatment delays. Investigation of patient pathways, treatment decision-making and treatment planning would improve understanding of these inequalities.

  • Cancer
  • Inequalities
  • Registers

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