Cancer Staging Affects Patients' Survival

But Canadian study finds adherence to modified guidelines is poor

MONDAY, Sept. 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- People whose stomach cancers are not staged correctly may die sooner, according to a new study.

It is important to correctly stage stomach cancer to identify the most effective treatment for it. A cornerstone of staging is finding out if it has spread to the lymph nodes.

In 1997, the guidelines for staging stomach cancer were modified in hopes of improving lymph node assessments. The definition of adequate lymph node assessments (ALNA) changed from distance from primary tumor to the number of lymph nodes with cancer out of at least 15 removed.

In a study appearing in the Nov. 1 issue of Cancer, researchers from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto and their colleagues reviewed data from 10,807 patients with stomach cancers to determine whether physicians are complying with the new guidelines and how staging effects cancer survival.

The researchers found that compliance with the new guidelines is poor.

After 1997, the median number of lymph nodes removed increased from nine to only 10, and only 29 percent of the participants had at least 15 lymph nodes removed.

Inadequate staging was found to compromise the quality of patient care.

In the region with the highest ALNA rate, the participants survived for an average of 33 months, compared with just 17 months in the participants in the region with the lowest ALNA rate.

ALNA improved survival at every stage, with the most significant benefit seen in patients with early stage disease.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about stomach cancer.

SOURCE: Cancer News Alert, news release, Sept. 25, 2006
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