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ANZ J Surg. 2002 Apr;72(4):265-70.

Rectal cancer in Victoria in 1994: patterns of reported management.

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  • 1Victorian Cancer Registry, Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Carlton, Australia.



A retrospective survey of medical practitioners was conducted to describe the management of patients newly diagnosed with rectal cancer in 1994, prior to the publication of best practice guidelines.


A sample of 908 patients with rectal cancer diagnosed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 was identified from the Victorian Cancer Registry. Questionnaires were then sent to the treating doctor(s) for completion. The topics covered by the questionnaires included: reported management by method of diagnosis; staging investigations; and treatment by surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


Seven hundred and twenty-six (80%) of 908 eligible patients were surveyed. Surgery was the primary treatment in 681 (93.8%) with curative intent in 483 (70.9%) of these cases. One- third (163; 33.7%) of curative cases were pathologically staged as Dukes' C. Almost all patients (96%) were symptomatic, and three-quarters were referred by general practitioners to 166 surgeons. One-third (221; 32.5%) underwent liver computed tomography or ultrasound, and only three cases had transrectal ultrasound. Restorative anterior resection was the most common surgical procedure (431; 63.3%) with 160 (23.5%) and 34 (5.0%) patients being managed with abdominoperineal resections and local excision, respectively. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy were administered as part of the initial management to 216 (31.7%) and 171 (25.1%) patients, respectively. In five of the 171 cases, radiotherapy was given preoperatively.


There was considerable variation in preoperative assessment. Staging was less complete than expected by today's standards. The diversity of surgical techniques observed may reflect both the lack of clinical trials and disparity in surgical training and experience. Referral to stomal therapists, and medical and radiation oncologists was lower than would now be expected, as was the use and timing of adjuvant therapies. These findings will be useful as a baseline for comparison with subsequent surveys conducted since the introduction of evidence-based guidelines.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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