Of all of the hospitals treating colon cancer patients in
the United States, roughly two thirds are not performing adequate testing after
surgery to make sure their cancer has not spread.
One of the most accurate ways to tell whether or not a colon
cancer has metastasized is to check lymph nodes around the cancer site once the
cancer itself has been removed. Leading
medical organizations agree that doctors should check at least 12 lymph nodes,
since checking fewer than 12 may leave doctors with an incomplete picture of
whether or not a cancer has spread. Alarmingly,
a report released on Tuesday reviewing 1,296 US hospitals indicated that only
38 percent of them checked enough lymph nodes in patients who had colon cancers
removed in 2004 and 2005.
In addition to providing doctors with information about
whether a patient’s colon cancer has spread, adequately checking lymph nodes
allows doctors to more accurately diagnose the severity of the cancer, and
prescribe treatments such as chemotherapy accordingly. The earlier a patient’s metastatic cancer is
detected, the greater his or her chance of survival.
The leader of the study, Dr. Karl Bilimoria of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, expressed disappointment
over the low compliance of doctors with colon cancer recommendations, and is
now searching for answers to why hospitals are failing to meet contemporary
“Maybe some people don’t know that they should be
reaching a certain number. And certainly there may be some people who don’t
believe that it’s important,” Bilimoria said.
Bilimoria’s research was released just a day after another
study, led by Dr. Gregory Cooper of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in
Cleveland, discovered that 60 percent of older colon cancer patients were not adequately
screened for cancer recurrence.