Purpose: To evaluate the results of a departmental treatment policy in a consecutive series of patients with nonsmall cell carcinoma of the lung. A second purpose was to estimate the survival of patients treated with radical intent. A third purpose was to estimate the impact of comorbidity on the selection of patients for treatment and on its outcome.
Methods and materials: The records of 720 consecutive patients referred to a single Department of Radiation Oncology between 1979 and 1985 were reviewed. One hundred fifty patients with early stage (Stage I and II disease) were studied in detail and the results are presented for the outcome of 103 patients treated by radical radiotherapy. All patients were followed for a minimum period of five years or until death.
Results: Patients referred for radiation therapy were elderly and usually had squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. Comorbidity was significant as was weight loss which occurred in a third of patients. The overall survival of patients treated with radical intent was 13%. In a small subgroup of patients with T1 tumors without weight loss and aged under 70 survival reached 50% at 5 years with no treatment-related mortality and with insignificant treatment-related morbidity.
Conclusion: Highly selected subsets of patients suitable for treatment with radiotherapy can be defined equally as well as highly selected subsets of patients can be selected for surgery. Treatment outcome can be surprisingly good in these subsets indicating that the treatment of nonsmall cell lung cancer, particularly in older patients without comorbidity should not automatically be by a surgical approach.