Open Access Research article

Characteristics, survival, and related factors of newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients refusing cancer treatments under a universal health insurance program

Chun-Yi Liu15, William Tzu-Liang Chen2, Pei-Tseng Kung3, Chang-Fang Chiu46, Yueh-Hsin Wang1, Shwn-Huey Shieh1 and Wen-Chen Tsai1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Services Administration, China Medical University, 91 Hsueh-Shih Road, Taichung 40402, Taiwan

2 Department of Surgery, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

3 Department of Healthcare Administration, Asia University, Taichung, Taiwan

4 Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

5 Department of Education, China Medical University Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan

6 Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:446  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-446

Published: 17 June 2014



Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide. Few studies have addressed the causes and risks of treatment refusal in a universal health insurance setting.


We examined the characteristics and survival associated with treatment refusal in patients with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer in Taiwan during 2004–2008. Treatment refusal was defined as not undergoing any cancer treatment within 4 months of confirmed cancer diagnosis. Patient data were extracted from four national databases. Factors associated with treatment refusal were identified through logistic regression using the generalized estimating equation method, and survival analysis was performed using the Cox proportional hazards model.


Of the 41,340 new colorectal cancer cases diagnosed, 3,612 patients (8.74%) refused treatment. Treatment refusal rate was higher in patients with less urbanized areas of residence, lower incomes, preexisting catastrophic illnesses, cancer stages of 0 and IV, and diagnoses at regional and district hospitals. Logistic regression analysis revealed that patients aged >75 years were the most likely to refuse treatment (OR, 1.87); patients with catastrophic illnesses (OR, 1.66) and stage IV cancer (OR, 1.43) had significantly higher refusal rates. The treatment refusers had 2.66 times the risk of death of those who received treatment. Factors associated with an increased risk of death in refusers included age ≥75 years, insured monthly salary ≥22,801 NTD, low-income household or aboriginal status, and advanced cancer stage (especially stage IV; HR, 11.33).


Our results show a lower 5-year survival for colorectal patients who refused treatment than for those who underwent treatment within 4 months. An age of 75 years or older, low-income household status, advanced stages of cancer, especially stage IV, were associated with higher risks of death for those who refused treatment.

Colorectal cancer; Refusing treatment; Survival; Universal health insurance program