Objective: The aim of this study was to compare the differences in the presentation, management and waiting times for new colorectal cancer (CRC) patients over 5 years in a single metropolitan cancer centre.
Methods: A retrospective comparative study of new patients with CRC presenting in the years 1998 and 2003. The groups were compared for referral type, Dukes' stage, site, cancer waiting times and primary treatment.
Results: There were 72 new patients in 1998 and 77 in 2003. In 1998 33% were seen urgently and 28% as emergencies whereas in 2003 55% of patients were seen as urgent or target wait patients and 16% as emergencies. The 2-week target for urgent referrals was met in 50% of cases in 1998 and 90% in 2003. In 2003 a higher proportion of patients received adjuvant or neoadjuvant treatment. Stage at diagnosis was similar in both groups, except stage 'D' which was 21% in 1998 and only 12% in 2003. The 31-day Cancer Waiting Time (CWT) target from decision to treat to first treatment would have been met in 81% of cases in 1998 and 79% in 2003. The 62-day overall CWT target from referral to first treatment for urgent GP referrals would have been met in 46% of cases in 1998 and 57% in 2003.
Conclusion: More CRC patients were referred urgently in 2003. Most, but not all of these were referred as target waits. The time taken for the patient's journey did not improve between the two cohorts, possibly in part, because more complex treatments are now provided. Further work and perhaps new thinking are needed in order to achieve Cancer Waiting Time targets.