BMC Cancer. 2022 Aug 22;22(1):910. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-09990-7.
BACKGROUND: Controversy exists regarding the relationship of the outcome of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) with the time from symptom onset to diagnosis. The aim of this study is to investigate this association, with the assumption that this relationship was nonlinear and with adjustment for multiple confounders, such as tumor grade, symptoms, or admission to an emergency department.
METHODS: This multicenter study with prospective follow-up was performed in five regions of Spain from 2010 to 2012. Symptomatic cases of incident CRC from a previous study were examined. At the time of diagnosis, each patient was interviewed, and the associated hospital and clinical records were reviewed. During follow-up, the clinical records were reviewed again to assess survival. Cox survival analysis with a restricted cubic spline was used to model overall and CRC-specific survival, with adjustment for variables related to the patient, health service, and tumor.
RESULTS: A total of 795 patients had symptomatic CRC and 769 of them had complete data on diagnostic delay and survival. Univariate analysis indicated a lower HR for death in patients who had diagnostic intervals less than 4.2 months. However, after adjustment for variables related to the patient, tumor, and utilized health service, there was no relationship of the diagnostic delay with survival of patients with colon and rectal cancer, colon cancer alone, or rectal cancer alone. Cubic spline analysis indicated an inverse association of the diagnostic delay with 5-year survival. However, this association was not statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicated that the duration of diagnostic delay had no significant effect on the outcome of patients with CRC. We suggest that the most important determinant of the duration of diagnostic delay is the biological profile of the tumor. However, it remains the responsibility of community health centers and authorities to minimize diagnostic delays in patients with CRC and to implement initiatives that improve early diagnosis and provide better outcomes.