Risk factors and prognostic implications of diagnosis of cancer within 30 days after an emergency hospital admission (emergency presentation): an International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) population-based study

Lancet Oncol. 2022 May;23(5):587-600. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(22)00127-9. Epub 2022 Apr 6.


Background: Greater understanding of international cancer survival differences is needed. We aimed to identify predictors and consequences of cancer diagnosis through emergency presentation in different international jurisdictions in six high-income countries.

Methods: Using a federated analysis model, in this cross-sectional population-based study, we analysed cancer registration and linked hospital admissions data from 14 jurisdictions in six countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, and the UK), including patients with primary diagnosis of invasive oesophageal, stomach, colon, rectal, liver, pancreatic, lung, or ovarian cancer during study periods from Jan 1, 2012, to Dec 31, 2017. Data were collected on cancer site, age group, sex, year of diagnosis, and stage at diagnosis. Emergency presentation was defined as diagnosis of cancer within 30 days after an emergency hospital admission. Using logistic regression, we examined variables associated with emergency presentation and associations between emergency presentation and short-term mortality. We meta-analysed estimates across jurisdictions and explored jurisdiction-level associations between cancer survival and the percentage of patients diagnosed as emergencies.

Findings: In 857 068 patients across 14 jurisdictions, considering all of the eight cancer sites together, the percentage of diagnoses through emergency presentation ranged from 24·0% (9165 of 38 212 patients) to 42·5% (12 238 of 28 794 patients). There was consistently large variation in the percentage of emergency presentations by cancer site across jurisdictions. Pancreatic cancer diagnoses had the highest percentage of emergency presentations on average overall (46·1% [30 972 of 67 173 patients]), with the jurisdictional range being 34·1% (1083 of 3172 patients) to 60·4% (1317 of 2182 patients). Rectal cancer had the lowest percentage of emergency presentations on average overall (12·1% [10 051 of 83 325 patients]), with a jurisdictional range of 9·1% (403 of 4438 patients) to 19·8% (643 of 3247 patients). Across the jurisdictions, older age (ie, 75-84 years and 85 years or older, compared with younger patients) and advanced stage at diagnosis compared with non-advanced stage were consistently associated with increased emergency presentation risk, with the percentage of emergency presentations being highest in the oldest age group (85 years or older) for 110 (98%) of 112 jurisdiction-cancer site strata, and in the most advanced (distant spread) stage category for 98 (97%) of 101 jurisdiction-cancer site strata with available information. Across the jurisdictions, and despite heterogeneity in association size (I2=93%), emergency presenters consistently had substantially greater risk of 12-month mortality than non-emergency presenters (odds ratio >1·9 for 112 [100%] of 112 jurisdiction-cancer site strata, with the minimum lower bound of the related 95% CIs being 1·26). There were negative associations between jurisdiction-level percentage of emergency presentations and jurisdiction-level 1-year survival for colon, stomach, lung, liver, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer, with a 10% increase in percentage of emergency presentations in a jurisdiction being associated with a decrease in 1-year net survival of between 2·5% (95% CI 0·28-4·7) and 7·0% (1·2-13·0).

Interpretation: Internationally, notable proportions of patients with cancer are diagnosed through emergency presentation. Specific types of cancer, older age, and advanced stage at diagnosis are consistently associated with an increased risk of emergency presentation, which strongly predicts worse prognosis and probably contributes to international differences in cancer survival. Monitoring emergency presentations, and identifying and acting on contributing behavioural and health-care factors, is a global priority for cancer control.

Funding: Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; Cancer Council Victoria; Cancer Institute New South Wales; Cancer Research UK; Danish Cancer Society; National Cancer Registry Ireland; The Cancer Society of New Zealand; National Health Service England; Norwegian Cancer Society; Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, on behalf of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry; the Scottish Government; Western Australia Department of Health; and Wales Cancer Network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Benchmarking
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms*
  • Prognosis
  • Rectal Neoplasms*
  • Risk Factors
  • State Medicine
  • Victoria