Objective: To study the association between a short diagnostic delay and tumour stage in patients with colonic and rectal cancer.
Design: Prospective study.
Setting: Multicentre study, Sweden.
Patients: 336 patients with colonic, and 218 patients with rectal cancer.
Main outcome measures: Incidence and duration of symptoms, delay in diagnosis, and stage at diagnosis.
Results: Patients with rectal cancer and a delay of less than a month between start of symptoms and diagnosis included a significantly larger proportion of Dukes' A tumours than patients with a longer delay (p = 0.004). Delay in patients with colonic cancer did not correlate with stage.
Conclusion: A short delay in the diagnosis of rectal cancer was associated with better staging. This could not be shown for colonic cancer, which may be attributable to its initially vague symptoms and to a subgroup of highly malignant tumours with rapidly progressive symptoms.