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Arch Surg. 2009 Dec;144(12):1115-20. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2009.210.

Colon cancer and low lymph node count: who is to blame?

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology, Lakeland Regional Cancer Center, Lakeland, Florida, USA.



To identify the factors that contribute to the disparity in the number of lymph nodes examined for curative colon cancer resections.


Our prospectively accrued cancer registry was analyzed for all colon cancer resections performed in a consecutive 52-month period (January 1, 2003, through April 30, 2007).


The study was performed at an 851-bed community hospital. Seventeen surgeons performed colon resections, with the number of resections varying from 1 to 154. Ten pathologists and 3 pathology assistants evaluated the specimens.


A total of 430 patients met the inclusion criteria and underwent surgical resection. Only patients with colon cancer were included in the study; patients with rectal cancers, in situ disease only, T4 tumors, and stage IV disease at the time of diagnosis were excluded to ensure a uniform group of patients, all undergoing resection with curative intent.


Age of the patient; the surgeon, pathologist, and pathology technician; stage of disease; and year of surgery were analyzed.


No statistical difference was found in the number of lymph nodes retrieved based on the surgeon (P = .21), pathologist (P = .11), or pathology technician (P = .26). Age of the patient, primary site of the tumor, stage, and year of surgery were all significantly associated with number of lymph nodes retrieved (P <.001).


The origin of a low lymph node count appears multifactorial. Inadequate lymph node retrieval for colon cancer resections cannot uniformly be attributed to 1 factor, such as the surgeon.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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