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Where Patients Are Treated for Stomach, Pancreatic Cancer Could Affect Their Survival

July 22, 2008

By Josh Goldstein, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jul. 22–This year an estimated 59,180 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and pancreas. More than 45,000 patients with the two cancers are expected to die, according to the American Cancer Society.

Despite the often poor prognoses, the kind of hospital where a patient is treated for these cancers could affect survival odds, according to a study by researchers at Northwestern University and UCLA.

The study, in the current issue of the Archives of Surgery, analyzed the care of 3,088 patients with stomach or gastric cancer and 1,130 patients with pancreatic cancer. The researchers compared hospitals based on how many lymph nodes were tested to see if patients’ cancer had spread.

They found that National Comprehensive Cancer Center-designated hospitals, National Cancer Institute hospitals and high-volume cancer hospitals examined more lymph nodes than other academic medical centers and community hospitals.

The authors concluded that because testing more lymph nodes helps determine the stage of cancer and, thus, can guide post-surgical treatment decisions, “differences in nodal evaluation may contribute to improved long-term outcomes.”

In this region, there are two comprehensive cancer center hospitals — the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Fox Chase Cancer Center. The Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University is designated as a National Cancer Insitute institution as is the Wistar Institute which does research, but does not treat patients.

Contact staff writer Josh Goldstein at 215-854-4733 or jgoldstein@phillynews.com.

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