Black patients are more likely than their white peers to need emergency surgery for colon cancer, which increases their risk for complications and death, study authors say.
"Overall, these results suggest that racial and ethnic differences persist" among colon cancer patients, and "these differences likely contribute to disparities in postoperative outcomes among these groups," said first author Dr. Ryan Howard, a general surgery resident at University of Michigan Health.
"We can spend all day working on, say, reducing complications right after surgery," Howard said in a university news release. "But if we're still not getting the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, then we're not doing a good enough job."
The researchers looked at data for nearly 5,000 patients who had surgery for colon cancer between 2015 and 2021. Just over 28% of Black patients underwent emergency surgery vs. 22.5% of white patients.
Overall, 23% of the operations were done on an emergency basis -- but they represented 63% of the deaths.
Besides having a higher risk of death, those who received emergency surgery also had less complete evaluations and testing as part of their workup, the study found.
Colon cancer is universally screened for and develops fairly slowly, Howard said. Someone who is engaged in the health care system has a high chance it will be detected.
"The fact that we found patients who are not getting that suggests that there is an opportunity to improve the care we deliver to patients, even before they get to the surgical episode," Howard said.
Targeted community outreach is known to help reduce disparities in cancer care, he said.
The study results were published earlier this year in Annals of Surgery.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on colon cancer.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine, news release, Dec. 8, 2022