Emergency presentation of colorectal cancer in older adults: A retrospective cohort analysis

Jennifer H Nobes (Lead / Corresponding author), Mark A Baxter, Craig Mowat

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INTRODUCTION: Adults aged 70 years and over account for almost 60% of colorectal cancer (CRC) diagnoses in the United Kingdom. Whilst emergency presentation of CRC is known to be associated with poorer outcomes across all ages, older adults are less likely to be treated with curative intent and have poorer overall survival (OS). We aimed to investigate whether presentation, management, or outcome differed in older (≥70 years) versus younger (<70 years) adults in our population.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The electronic records of patients diagnosed with CRC within the period 2016 to 2019 in National Health Service (NHS) Tayside, Scotland were retrospectively analysed. Patients were grouped by age (<70 years and ≥70 years). Demographics were compared by Chi-squared or t-test, and Kaplan-Meier and Cox proportional hazard regression were used for survival analyses.

RESULTS: In total, 1245 patients were diagnosed with CRC (median age 71 years, range 20-98). Of these, 215 patients (17.3%) presented emergently and were included in the analysis. Older adults accounted for 65.1% (n = 140) of emergency presentations. Older adults were less likely to present with classical symptoms of CRC (80.0% vs 90.7%, p = 0.04) and more likely to present via the medical assessment unit (46.4% vs 30.7%, p = 0.03). Additionally, older adults were less likely to receive a histological diagnosis of CRC (71.4% vs 97.3%, p < 0.001) or have complete staging investigations performed (78.6% vs 96.0%, p < 0.001). Fewer older adults underwent surgical management (55.0% vs 86.7%, p < 0.001) and fewer were treated with chemotherapy (14.3% vs 69.3%, p < 0.001). Whilst older adults had poorer median OS than those aged <70 years (12.0 vs 34.4 months, p < 0.001), multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression demonstrated that higher stage (stage III hazard ratio [HR] 2.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6-4.7, stage IV HR 16.7, 95% CI 9.7-28.8, incomplete HR 8.2, 95% CI 4.6-14.7) and not receiving chemotherapy (HR 2.6, 95% CI 1.7-4.0) were associated with poorer survival, whereas age and sex were not.

DISCUSSION: Emergency presentation of colorectal cancer was more common in older adults. Older adults were more likely to present atypically, less likely to have completed staging, and had lower rates of intervention, which were associated with poorer survival outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101780
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Geriatric Oncology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Diagnosis
  • Emergency presentation
  • Management
  • Older adults
  • Prognosis
  • Staging
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Oncology


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