PURPOSE: This study was designed to identify objective criteria that might help surgeons decide which patients with incurable colon cancer will benefit from palliative surgery and which will not.
METHODS: Charts of 68 patients with incurable colon cancer were reviewed. Fifty-seven patients underwent resection, six had a bypass of a nonresectable cancer, and five had no surgery at all. Time to death was the major end point of the study. Minor end points were postoperative morbidity and mortality. Independent variables analyzed were comorbidity, preoperative carcinoembryonic antigen, liver function tests, extent of liver metastases, stage and site of tumor, and tumor cell differentiation.
RESULTS: There were six postoperative deaths, and six patients had complications. Mean survival after palliative resection was 10.6 months, after bypass was 3.4 months, and after diagnosis in patients not operated on was 2 months. Patients with >50 percent of their liver replaced by cancer had significantly worse survival than those with <50 percent involvement (mean, 4.2 +/- 4 standard deviation (SD) vs. 14.4 +/- 10.6 SD;P < 0.003, Wilcoxon's rank-sum test). Tumor differentiation also influenced survival (poor, mean 8.4 +/- 8.2 SD; well/moderate, 12.5 +/-9.2 SD;P < 0.02). No other variable had a significant effect on survival.
CONCLUSION: Resection of primary colon cancer in patients with incurable disease has a relatively high postoperative mortality but is worthwhile as long as hepatic metastases occupy less than 50 percent of liver volume.
(C) The ASCRS 1997