One third of colon cancer patients do not discover they have the disease until they present at emergency rooms with difficulties, a study has revealed today.
Researchers at the Department of Surgery, Wexford General Hospital, Gary Bass, Cathy Fleming and consultant surgeon Ken Mealy, will reveal the data at the Royal College of Surgeons Research Day at St Stephen's Green in Dublin later today.
In the largest study of its kind in Ireland, the group have shown that one in three colon cancer patients are do not receive their first diagnosis of the disease until they present in difficulty through the emergency department - a figure 20-50% higher than in the US, where survival rates are higher.
The principal author of the study, Gary Bass, said: "If these patients require emergency surgery, ... the average length of survival is significantly worse than those patients referred by their GP, screened and operated on an elective list.
"In this study, it took an average of 15 days from screening colonoscopy to surgery to remove the tumour. These figures (and cost-analysis from Canada) back-up a call for a national screening programme, which (we, the authors) believe would massively reduce the numbers first presenting as
an emergency and thus dramatically improve the survival rates in colon cancer."