Spanish-Speaking Status: A Protective Factor in Colorectal Cancer Presentation at a Safety-Net Hospital

Published:August 27, 2022DOI:



      Lower screening rates and poorer outcomes for colorectal cancer have been associated with Hispanic ethnicity and Spanish-speaking status, respectively.


      We reviewed sequential colorectal cancer patients evaluated by the surgical service at a safety-net hospital (SNH) (2016-2019). Insurance type, stage, cancer type, surgery class (elective/urgent), initial surgeon contact setting (outpatient clinic/inpatient consult), operation (resection/diversion), and follow-up were compared by patient-reported primary spoken language.


      Of 157 patients, 85 (54.1%) were men, 91 (58.0%) had colon cancer, 67 (42.7%) primarily spoke Spanish, and late stage (III or IV) presentations occurred in 83 (52.9%) patients. The median age was 58 y, cancer resection was completed in 48 (30.6%) patients, and 51 (32.5%) patients were initially seen as inpatient consults. On univariate analysis, Spanish-speaking status was significantly associated with female sex, Medicaid insurance, being seen as an outpatient consult, and undergoing elective and resection surgery. On multivariable logistic regression, Spanish-speaking patients had higher odds of having Medicaid insurance (AOR 2.28, P = 0.019), receiving a resection (AOR 3.96, P = 0.006), and undergoing an elective surgery (AOR 3.24, P = 0.025). Spanish-speaking patients also had lower odds of undergoing an initial inpatient consult (AOR 0.34, P = 0.046).


      Spanish-speaking status was associated with a lower likelihood of emergent presentation and need for palliative surgery among SNH colorectal cancer patients. Further research is needed to determine if culturally competent infrastructure in the SNH setting translates into Spanish-speaking status as a potentially protective factor.


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