Repeat 2-week wait referrals for colorectal cancer


James M D Wheeler, Department of Colorectal Surgery, Cheltenham General Hospital, Sandford Road, Cheltenham, Glos. GL53 7AN, UK.


Aim  The inappropriate use of the ‘2-week wait’ pathway for suspected colorectal cancer (CRC2ww) may overload urgent clinics and delay the assessment and investigation of other patients. Those who have been previously referred and investigated for suspected colorectal cancer may present one group that does not warrant repeat urgent referral. This paper aims to identify the incidence and diagnostic yield of repeat CRC2ww referrals.

Method  All CRC2ww patients referred to our unit over a 4-year period were identified retrospectively. Referral indication, outcome and instances of repeat referral were identified from multidisciplinary team, endoscopy and imaging databases.

Results  In all, 2735 CRC2ww referrals were made over the study period. Of these, 122 were repeated CRC2ww referrals, with the incidence increasing from 2% in 2008 to 6% in 2010 (= 0.0006). The median time to repeat referral was 1070 days. After initial referral 267 cancers were detected, including 212 colorectal cancers. The diagnostic yield was lower but not significantly so after repeated referral (six cancers) compared with initial referral (5%vs 10%, = 0.07).

Conclusion  The incidence of repeat referral is low but the diagnostic yield is not insignificant. Exclusion of these patients from urgent assessment and investigation will not significantly reduce workload and may risk missing some patients with cancer.