Research Article

Outcome in colorectal adenocarcinoma: two seven-year studies of a population.

BMJ 1993; 307 doi: (Published 18 September 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;307:707
  1. N L Gordon,
  2. A A Dawson,
  3. B Bennett,
  4. G Innes,
  5. O Eremin,
  6. P F Jones
  1. Department of Medicine, University of Aberdeen.


    OBJECTIVE--To record every patient with proved colorectal adenocarcinoma presenting from a defined population over two years in 1968-9 and during 1980-2, and to compare treatment and outcome over seven years. DESIGN--Retrospective in 1968-9 and prospective in 1980-2. SETTING--Aberdeen general hospitals. SUBJECTS--Every patient presenting to the four general surgical units with histological proof of colorectal adenocarcinoma. MAIN FINDINGS--On average, one new patient presented each week per 100,000 population. The proportion of patients aged 65 and over rose from 67% to 71%. An operation was performed on 385 patients in 1968-9 and on 399 during 1980-2. At laparotomy the proportion of patients who seemed to be curable and had a radical operation rose slightly, from 56% to 61%, and operative mortality fell from 9% to 5%. In all there were 421 survivors of curative surgery, and seven years later three quarters were either alive (51%) or had died without recurrence (25%). In both studies some 40% of patients were considered incurable when they presented, but the number who had a palliative resection rose from 59% to 85%. CONCLUSIONS--The contribution of radical surgery to the treatment of colorectal adenocarcinoma is substantial, with three quarters of patients so treated showing no evidence of recurrence after seven years. Operative mortality in an elderly population is now low, and improvement in late outcome is more likely to come from developments in adjuvant therapy than in operative technique. A continuing problem is that 40% of patients are not curable when they present, although palliative resection can now be offered to over 80%.