Improving the Odds Against Rectal Cancer

Study finds better outcomes for patients at high-volume hospitals

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TUESDAY, May 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- People with rectal cancer have higher survival rates and less chance of permanent colostomy when they're treated at hospitals that deal with many more cases of rectal cancer than other hospitals.

So says a study in the May 21 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and Harvard Medical School compared the outcomes of 7,257 people who had surgery for rectal cancer.

The study found rectal cancer patients treated at low-volume hospitals (those performing less than seven rectal cancer operations a year) had a post-surgery death rate of 4.8 percent and a two-year survival rate of 76.6 percent.

Patients treated in high-volume hospitals (more than 20 rectal cancer operations a year) had a post-surgery death rate of 1.6 percent and a two-year survival rate of 83.7 percent.

The rectal cancer patients treated at the low-volume hospitals had a 7 percent increase in absolute risk of permanent colostomy compared to those treated in high-volume hospitals. A permanent colostomy is a procedure to permanently reroute the passage of waste materials from the body.

Previous studies have found a person's quality of life is substantially reduced after having a colostomy.

The differences between rectal cancer patient outcomes in high-volume and low-volume hospitals may be due to surgeon-related factors, such as experience, training or attitudes about colostomy, the study authors suggest.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about rectal cancer.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, news release, May 20, 2003

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