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Ann Surg Oncol. 2004 Nov;11(11):962-9. Epub 2004 Oct 15.

Cancer-directed surgery for localized disease: decreased use in the elderly.

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Department of Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California-Los Angeles, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, Room 72-215, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.



Previous studies report underuse of radiation and chemotherapy in the elderly, yet few have examined the rates of use (or underuse) of surgery. Using national data, we examined rates of surgical resection for patients with local-stage cancers.


By using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End RESULTS database (1988-1997), patients (> or =40 years) were identified with localized adenocarcinoma of the breast, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon, or rectum; non-small-cell lung carcinoma; and sarcoma (n = 200,360). Rates of cancer-directed surgery (CDS) were compared across age groups (at 5-year intervals). Multivariate regression was used to identify predictors of receipt of CDS in each tumor group.


Rates of CDS declined steadily with increasing age for all nine localized tumors. Most striking were the low rates of CDS for patients >70 years with esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and lung cancers (range, 0%-83%). However, CDS rates were >90% for breast and colon and >84% for rectal cancer in all age groups. Multivariate regression found lower odds of CDS for elderly patients for all cancers except colon. For example, age significantly decreased the odds of receiving CDS beginning at 60 years for lung cancer (odds ratio [OR], .550; P = .03), at 70 years for liver cancer (OR, .109; P = .003), and at 80 years for pancreatic cancer (OR, .120; P < .05).


Although CDS for localized disease is being performed regularly in the elderly for some cancers (e.g. breast, colon, and rectum), this analysis shows that elderly patients are not receiving surgery for many potentially curable cancers. Whether these rates are appropriate or too low requires further evaluation. This is particularly essential because our population is aging.

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