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Merkow RP, Bilimoria KY, Sherman KL, McCarter MD, Gordon HS, Bentrem DJ. Efficiency of colorectal cancer care among veterans: analysis of treatment wait times at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Journal of oncology practice / American Society of Clinical Oncology. 2013 Jul 1; 9(4):e154-63.
PURPOSE: Timeliness of cancer treatment is an important aspect of health care quality. Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) are expected to treat a growing number of patients with cancer. Our objectives were to examine treatment times from diagnosis to first-course therapy for patients with colon and rectal cancers and assess factors associated with prolonged wait times. METHODS: From the VA Central Cancer Registry, patients who underwent colon or rectal resection for cancer from 1998 to 2008 were identified. Time from diagnosis to definitive cancer-directed therapy was measured, and multivariable regression methods were used to determine predictors of prolonged wait times for colon ( = 45 days) and rectal ( = 60 days) cancers. RESULTS: From 124 VAMCs, 14,097 patients underwent colectomy, and 3,390 underwent rectal resection for cancer. For colon cancer, the median time to treatment increased by 68% over time (P < .001). From 2007 to 2008, the median time to colectomy was 32 days. Predictors of prolonged wait times included age = 55 years (v < 55 years), time period (2007 to 2008 v 1998 to 2000), black race (v white), marriage status (married v unmarried), high-volume center status (v low volume), and treatment at a different hospital (v same hospital as initial diagnosis; all P < .05). For rectal cancer, the overall median time to first-course treatment increased by 74% (P < .001). From 2007 to 2008, the median time to proctectomy was 47 days. Similar predictors of prolonged wait times were identified for rectal cancer. CONCLUSION: Time to first treatment has increased for patients with colon and rectal cancers at VAMCs. Patient, tumor, and hospital factors are associated with prolonged time to treatment.