Factors Influencing Selection of Treatment for Colorectal Cancer Patients

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: In Sweden and elsewhere there is evidence of poorer cancer survival for patients of low socioeconomic status (SES), and in some settings differences in treatment by SES have been shown.The aim of this thesis was to explore factors which influence cancer treatment decisions, such as knowledge reaped from clinical trials, patient-related factors, and physician-related factors. In a register study of colorectal cancer, all stages, patients were stratified for SES-factors. Differences were seen with regards to clinical investigation, surgical and oncological treatment and survival, with the highly educated group being favored. Survival was better for highly educated patients in stages I, II and III but not in stage IV.In a Scandinavian cohort of newly metastasized colorectal cancer patients, recruitment to clinical trials was studied. Patients entering clinical trials had better performance status and fewer cancer symptoms than those who were treated with chemotherapy outside of a clinical trial. Median survival was 21.3 months for trial-patients and 15.2 months for those treated with chemotherapy outside a  trial. Those not treated with chemotherapy had a median survival of just 2.1 months. Patients in clinical trials are highly selected and conclusions drawn from studies cannot be applied to all patients.In the same cohort, treatment and survival were stratified for education, smoking and indicators of social structure. Highly educated patients did not have a survival advantage. Patients who lived alone were offered less combination chemotherapy and surgery of metastases than other patients and had 4 months shorter survival than those who lived with a spouse or child. In a fourth study, 20 Swedish gastrointestinal oncologists were interviewed on which factors they considered when deciding on oncological treatment. Oncologists feared chemotherapy complications due to lack of social support, and ordered less combination chemotherapy for patients living alone. Highly educated patients were seen as well-read and demanding, and giving in to these patients’ requests for treatment was regarded as a way of pleasing patients and relatives and of avoiding conflict.