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Many Hospitals Still Not Doing Exam of 12 Lymph Nodes

Less than half compliant with recommendation regarding exam following diagnosis of colon cancer

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Most hospitals weren't compliant in recent years with a recommendation to examine at least 12 regional lymph nodes in patients with colon cancer, according to research published online Sept. 9 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Karl Y. Bilimoria, M.D., of the American College of Surgeons in Chicago, and colleagues compared data from the National Cancer Data Base on adult patients who underwent colectomy for adenocarcinoma of the colon in 1996-1997 and 2004-2005. Hospitals were considered compliant if they examined at least 12 nodes in at least 75 percent of these patients. Several major oncology organizations made the recommendation to examine at least 12 lymph nodes in the late 1990s.

Out of 1,296 hospitals, 15 percent were compliant in the 1996-1997 period, and 38 percent were compliant in the 2004-2005 period, the researchers report. Over this time, compliance increased in 980 hospitals, decreased in 310, and remained the same at six, the report indicates.

"Considerable improvement in lymph node examination rates is needed, irrespective of hospital type. The measure may be used to assess physicians and/or hospital performance in the future, and a surveillance period will allow hospitals to focus on the issue and improve their performance before they may be held accountable. The 12-node measure offers an opportunity to improve the quality of care for colon cancer patients in the United States," the authors conclude.

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