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Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2012 Jul;104(7):343-9.

Missed opportunities in early diagnosis of symptomatic colorectal cancer.

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Family and Community Medicine, Centro de Salud Otero, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.



delays in diagnosis of symptomatic colorectal cancer are a reality in our context. This study aims at identifying missed diagnostic opportunities, describing events, clinical clues and most common mistakes, and quantifying delays.


an observational descriptive study was performed in order to review all case histories. Two experts reviewed the case histories of all the patients from the 4th Catchment Area of Asturias diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2009. All data were analysed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression.


full information on 119 patients out of 143 patients was collected. 34.45% had a clinical missed opportunity -confidence interval (CI) 95%: 30.92-39.68-. Outcomes show an average of 2.41 missed opportunities and 2.61 diagnostic clinical clues per patient. The number of patients with missed opportunities was significantly higher. The total amount of co-morbidities was higher in patients with missed opportunities (2.7). This was the main determinant. The main diagnostic key was iron-deficiency anaemia (46.3%). It produced the longest delay (300 days). Not having requested diagnostic tests was the most common mistake (43.3%). Having at least one missed opportunity entailed an average delay of 235.8 days between the first visit to the office and the referral to a consultant.


in clinical practice, missed opportunities to start a diagnostic assessment in patients with presumptive diagnosis of colorectal cancer are common. The most significant clinical clue and the one generating the longest delay is iron-deficiency anaemia. The diagnostic delay is important and is caused mainly by not identifying symptoms.

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