Purpose: Half of all patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are 70 years or older at the time of diagnosis. Surgery is an option for fit elderly patients with early stage disease, but rates of disease recurrence after surgical resection are not well described. We report the outcomes in elderly patients (70 years or older) with stage I NSCLC after surgical resection.
Patients and methods: We conducted a retrospective study of patients diagnosed with stage I NSCLC after surgical resection at Washington University School of Medicine-Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center from 1990 to 2000. Demographic, pathologic, treatment, and follow-up data were collected. Recurrence rates and overall survival were calculated by the Kaplan-Meier method. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards models were used to detect associations between potential prognostic factors and survival and recurrence.
Results: Of the 715 patients with stage I NSCLC, 286 were 70 years or older at diagnosis. In this elderly cohort, the median age was 74 years (range, 70-89 years) and 140 of them were women (49%). Lobectomy was performed in 237 patients (83%) whereas 43 patients (15%) had a wedge or segmental resection, and six patients (2%) underwent pneumonectomy. Clinical and pathologic characteristics were not statistically different between the elderly and younger cohorts, with the exception that older patients were more likely to be white (90% versus 80%, p = 0.0003) and less likely to be smokers (88% versus 95%, p = 0.019) compared with the younger cohort. With a median follow-up of 4.6 years, the overall 5-year survival rate was 52% with a 5-year recurrence rate of 24%. In comparison, the patients younger than 70 years had a 5-year survival rate of 67% (p < 0.001) and a 5-year recurrence rate of 24%.
Conclusions: Although overall survival was worse in elderly patients, estimated disease recurrence rates after resection were identical.