Lymph node evaluation for colon cancer in an era of quality guidelines: Who improves?

Helen M. Parsons, James W. Begun, Karen M. Kuntz, Todd M. Tuttle, Patricia M. McGovern, Beth A. Virnig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Introduction: In the 1990s, several organizations began recommending evaluation of > 12 lymph nodes during colon resection because of its association with improved survival. We examined practice implications of multispecialty quality guidelines over the past 20 years recommending evaluation of ≥ 12 lymph nodes during colon resection for adequate staging. Materials and Methods: We used the 1988 to 2009 Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program to conduct a retrospective observational cohort study of 90,203 surgically treated patients with colon cancer. We used Cochran-Armitage tests to examine trends in lymph node examination over time and multivariate logistic regression to identify patient characteristics associated with guideline-recommended lymph node evaluation. Results: The introduction of practice guidelines was associated with gradual increases in guideline-recommended lymph node evaluation. From 1988 to 1990, 34% of patients had > 12 lymph nodes evaluated, increasing to 38% in 1994 to 1996 and to > 75% from 2006 to 2009. Younger, white patients and those with more-extensive bowel penetration (T3/4 nonmetastatic) and high tumor grade saw more-rapid increases in lymph node evaluation (P <. 001). Multivariate analyses demonstrated a significant interaction between year of diagnosis and both T stage and grade, indicating that those with higher T stage and higher grade were more likely to receive guideline-recommended care earlier. Conclusion: The implementation of lymph node evaluation guidelines was accepted gradually into practice but adopted more quickly among higher risk patients. By identifying patients who are least likely to receive guideline-recommended care, these findings present a starting point for promoting targeted improvements in cancer care and further understanding underlying contributors to these disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e164-e171
JournalJournal of Oncology Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy


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