(HealthDay News) — Time from diagnosis to first treatment for colon and rectal cancers has increased at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs), according to research published in the July issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Ryan P. Merkow, M.D., of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from the VA Central Cancer Registry to identify patients who underwent surgery for colon or rectal cancer from 1998 to 2008. Time from diagnosis to first treatment and factors associated with longer waits were assessed.

The researchers found that 14,097 patients underwent colon resection and 3,390 patients underwent rectal resection for cancer at 124 VAMCs. Over time, significant increases were observed in the median times to treatment for colon cancer (68%) and rectal cancer (74%). In 2007 to 2008, the median times to treatment were 32 days for colectomy and 47 days for proctectomy.

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Predictors of prolonged wait times for colon and rectal cancer treatment were age 55 years or older versus younger than 55 years, unmarried versus married status, high-volume versus low-volume center, and treatment at a different hospital versus the same hospital as the initial diagnosis. Black versus white race was a predictor of longer waits for colon cancer surgery.

“Patient and hospital factors are associated with prolonged treatment times, and opportunities exist to increase the quality of cancer care for veterans with colorectal cancer,” the authors write.