Background: Several studies have reported a survival disadvantage for rural dwellers who develop colorectal cancer, but the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. Delayed presentation to general practitioners (GPs) maybe a contributory factor but evidence is lacking. Aim: To examine the association between rurality and travel time on diagnosis and survival from colorectal cancer in a cohort from Northeast Scotland. Design and setting: We used a database linking GP records to routine data for patients diagnosed between 1997/98, and followed up to 2011. Method: Primary outcomes were alarm symptoms, emergency admissions, stage and survival. Travel time in minutes from patients to GP was estimated. Logistic and Cox regression were used to model outcomes. Interaction terms were used to determine if travelling time impacted differently on urban versus rural patients. Results: Rural patients and patients travelling farther to the GP had better three-year survival. When the travel - outcomes association were explored using interaction terms, the associations differed between rural and urban areas. Longer travel in urban areas significantly reduced the odds of emergency admissions (OR 0.62, p<0.05), and increased survival (HR 0.75, p<0.05). Longer travel also increased the odds of presenting with alarm symptoms in urban areas, this was nearly significant (OR 1.34, p=0.06). Presence of alarm symptoms reduced the likelihood of emergency admissions (OR 0.36, p<0.01). Conclusions: Living in a rural area, and travelling farther to GP in urban areas may reduce the likelihood of emergency admissions and poor survival. This may be related to how patients present with alarm symptoms.
Bibliographical noteThe authors are grateful to Professor Willie Hamilton of the University of Exeter Medical School for his advice on grouping colorectal cancer symptoms, and would also like to thank colleagues at the University of Aberdeen for providing the CRUX dataset.
- cancer systems
- early diagnosis
- primary care
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- School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, Applied Health Sciences - Personal Chair (Clinical)
- Institute of Applied Health Sciences
Person: Clinical Academic