Objective: To identify disparities in the management of colon and rectal cancer across Europe by assessing population-based information from 12 European cancer registries (CR) participating in EUROCARE, together with additional information obtained from individual clinical records.
Methods and patients: We considered five indicators: (a) resection with curative intent; (b) post-operative mortality; (c) proportion of stage II/III colon cancer cases given adjuvant chemotherapy; (d) proportion of rectal cancer cases receiving radiotherapy; and (e) proportion of curative intent resections with 12 or more lymph nodes examined.
Results: A total of 6 871 colorectal cancer patients, diagnosed between 1996-1998, were examined. Overall 71% of patients received resection with curative intent, range 44-86% by CR; 46% of stage III colon cancer cases (range 24-73% by CR) and 22% of stage II cases (not then recommended) received adjuvant chemotherapy; 12% of rectal cancer cases received adjuvant radiotherapy, range < or =2% in five CRs to >51% in two CRs. For only 29% of curative intent resections were 12 or more lymph nodes examined.
Conclusions: This study reveals that, although most patients received surgery with curative intent, disparities in treatment for colorectal cancer across Europe in the late 1990s were unexpectedly large, with many patients not receiving treatments indicated by published clinical trials. Consensus guidelines for CRC management are now becoming available and should be adopted across Europe. It is hoped that dissemination of guidelines will improve the use of scientifically proven treatments for the disease, but this should be monitored by further population-based studies.