For elderly patients, nearly 1 in 3 cancer diagnoses result from ER admissions

September 24, 2012
For elderly patients, nearly 1 in 3 cancer diagnoses result from ER admissions

Almost a third (31 per cent) of cancers in the over 70s – around 38,300 a year in England – are diagnosed through emergency admission to hospital, according to new research by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), published in the British Journal of Cancer (BJC).

In all ages, 24 per cent – around 58,400 cases a year – are diagnosed through an presentation.

This new study examined the of nearly three quarters of a million patients (739, 667) between 2006 and 2008 in and worked backwards to see how they were diagnosed with cancer and the sequence of events that took them there.

In those over 70, around 70 per cent of cancers of the and over half of pancreatic (55 per cent) and (52 per cent) cancers were first diagnosed after an emergency admission to hospital.

Patients first coming to hospital as an emergency before having cancer diagnosed could have presented in a variety of ways including, coming into A&E due to their cancer symptoms, coming into A&E with, for example, a broken hip and having cancer detected, or being referred straight to A&E by their GP because their cancer symptoms are so severe.

Of all ages the data shows wide variation between cancers, with a high percentage of emergencies for cancers of the brain and central nervous (62 per cent); pancreatic cancer (50 per cent) and lung cancer (39 per cent).

This was compared to cancers with easier to spot symptoms such as skin and breast cancer which had just three and five per cent emergency admissions.  

For all cancer types, patients are much less likely to survive the next year if they are diagnosed through emergencies.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK and one of the study authors, said: "Our findings showing the sheer numbers of first seen as an emergency are startling.  Early diagnosis of cancer, when the most effective treatments are more likely to be options, helps improve a patient's chance of surviving their disease.

"We don't yet know the reasons that lie behind these stark figures but, although we might expect higher numbers of older patients to have cancer detected as an emergency, we urgently need to understand why there is such a great proportion. It may be that older people are reluctant to bother their doctor with possible cancer symptoms, or they could be slipping through the net as symptoms may be dismissed as 'the usual aches and pains' or 'old age', or their GP could have referred them but their condition has progressed so rapidly that they end up as an emergency in hospital.  

"With so many people past retirement now able to lead healthy, active lives we need to continue to work with GPs and older people to raise awareness of early detection and treatment of cancer in the over 70s – a generation where traditionally cancer was a taboo word."

Chris Carrigan, head of the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), said: "These exciting data are the first set of detailed analysis in the world which give us an idea of the journey went on in being diagnosed with cancer.  Producing new intelligence such as this, and making the data available for others to use and understand, is a key priority for the partners in the NCIN."

Explore further: Nearly 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of diagnosis

More information: Elliss-Brookes, L et al. Routes to diagnosis for cancer – determining the patient journey using multiple routine data set. British Journal of Cancer doi:10.1038/bjc.2012.408

Related Stories

Nearly 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of diagnosis

March 27, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Almost 10 per cent of bowel cancer patients die within a month of being diagnosed according to new analysis by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), published today.

Screening helps early diagnosis of bowel cancer

June 18, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Patients who attend bowel screening are more likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early stage - when there is a better chance of survival - than those who wait until they have symptoms of the ...

Wide variation in number of patients GPs refer with suspected cancer

July 31, 2012
Information published today by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) reveals wide variation across England in the numbers of patients with suspected cancer that GP practices refer to secondary care.

Latest cancer research unveiled

June 20, 2011
Two leading experts from the Division of Cancer Studies at King’s presented their latest research into cancer survival this week at the National Cancer Intelligence Network conference in London.

Age affects risk of being diagnosed with cancer at advanced stage

March 2, 2012
Older women with breast cancer face a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease at a late stage, while the risk of an advanced stage diagnosis of lung cancer decreases with age, a new study shows today.

Simple test could hold key to early diagnosis of cancers

June 9, 2011
Cancers of the gut, stomach and pancreas could be detected much sooner with a simple urine test, research suggests.

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop novel immunotherapy technology for prostate cancer

August 17, 2017
A study led by scientists at The Wistar Institute describes a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of cancer based on the use of synthetic DNA to directly encode protective antibodies against a cancer specific ...

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.