Aims: To evaluate trends in colorectal cancer survival and treatment at South Australian teaching hospitals and degree of adherence to treatment guidelines which recommend adjuvant chemotherapy for Dukes' C colon cancers and combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy for high-risk rectal cancers. Materials and methods: Trends in disease specific survival and primary treatment were analysed, and comparisons drawn between diagnostic epochs, using cancer registry data from South Australian teaching hospitals. Statistical methods included univariate and multivariable disease specific survival analyses. Results: Five-year survival increased from 48% in 1980-1986 to 56% in 1995-2002. Largest gains were for stage C, where survivals were higher when chemotherapy was part of the primary treatment. By comparison, gains in 1-year survival were largest for stage D. Chemotherapy was provided for 4% of patients with colorectal cancers in 1980-1986, increasing to 32% in 1995-2002. Among stage C cases below 70 years at diagnosis, the proportion having chemotherapy increased to 83% in 1995-2002. The most common chemotherapy was fluorouracil (5FU) as a single agent in 1980-1986 and 5FU with leucovorin in 1995-2002. As expected, radiotherapy was used more frequently for rectal than colon cancers, and particularly for stage C. Among stage C rectal cases below 70 years, the proportion having radiotherapy increased from 10% in 1980-1986 to 57% in 1995-2002. Approximately 93% of colorectal cancers were treated surgically. Patients not treated surgically tended to be aged 80 years or more and to present with distant metastases. Conclusions: Trends in chemotherapy and radiotherapy accord with evidence-based recommendations. There have been reassuring gains in survivals after adjusting for stage, grade and other prognostic indicators. The data show survival gains and treatment patterns that individual hospitals can use as benchmarks when evaluating their own experience.
- Secular trends