Publication Abstract

Authors: Steyerberg EW, Neville B, Weeks JC, Earle CC

Title: Referral patterns, treatment choices, and outcomes in locoregional esophageal cancer: a population-based analysis of elderly patients.

Journal: J Clin Oncol 25(17):2389-96

Date: 2007 Jun 10

Abstract: PURPOSE To determine the impact of demographics and comorbidity on access to specialists' services, treatment, and outcome for patients with locoregional esophageal cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS We performed a retrospective cohort study of 3,538 patients older than age 65 years who were diagnosed with locoregional esophageal cancer between 1991 and 1999 in one of 11 regions monitored by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results tumor program. We examined linked Medicare claims for assessment by a surgeon, radiation oncologist, or medical oncologist and subsequent treatment with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Logistic regression analyses were performed for seeing a specialist and for undergoing treatment according to age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, geographic region, and presence of comorbidities. Cox proportional hazards analyses were performed to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for survival with and without adjustment for treatment received. Results Seeing a cancer specialist depended especially on age and region of diagnosis. These same factors were also related to subsequent treatment decisions, but associations were reversed in some regions, such that treatment depended less on region. Older patients had poorer survival (HR = 2.0 for 85+ v 65 to 69 years), which was partly explained by treatment received (HR decreased to 1.5 when adjusted for treatment). CONCLUSION Older patients have less intensive treatment of esophageal cancer, which is explained by both a lower rate of seeing a cancer specialist and by less intensive treatment once seen. Referring physicians and treating specialists must ensure that elderly patients are not deprived of the opportunity to consider all of their treatment options.