Background: Lung cancer is still the most common cause of death due to cancer. Although the 5-year survival rate of patients with lung cancer is reported to be increasing, whether the surgical results have actually been improving or not is controversial. We reviewed our experience to evaluate time trends of surgical outcomes in patients with nonsmall cell lung cancer.
Methods: We reviewed the clinical records of 1465 consecutive patients with proven primary nonsmall cell carcinoma who underwent complete removal of the primary tumor together with hilar and mediastinal lymph nodes from 1985 to 1995 (early era) and from 1996 to 2002 (late era). The clinical characteristics, surgical outcome, and overall survival of the patients were analyzed, and data from the two eras were compared.
Results: There were 694 patients in the early era and 771 in the late era. As for their characteristics, elder age, female sex, adenocarcinoma, earlier stage of disease and smaller size of tumor were more frequently encountered in the late era. Lobectomy was the most common procedure performed during both periods, and in the late era, the rate of segmentectomy was doubled (11% to 25%) whereas that of pneumonectomy was much less (6% to 1%). Although the frequency of operative deaths in the two eras did not differ (0.3%), that of in-hospital deaths and of postoperative complications decreased significantly in the late era (2% to 0.5% and 28% to 12%, respectively). A significant improvement in survival probability was observed in patients with pathologic stage IA (p < 0.0001), IB (p = 0.0477), and III disease (p = 0.00120) but not in those with pathologic stage II disease (p = 0.5353). Also, the multivariate analysis of patients with pathologic stage I or III demonstrated that age, sex, and size of the tumor were significant prognostic determinants, and confirmed that the recent prolonged survivals remained significant even after simultaneous adjustment for other factors.
Conclusions: These data indicate a significant recent improvement in surgical outcomes after stratification of various prognostic variables although careful consideration should be given to the retrospective nature of this study.