Cervical Cancer Patients More Likely to Survive If Treated at High-Volume Medical Facilities, Lin-Led Study Finds

Issue Date: 
March 18, 2013

Patients with locally advanced cervical cancer who receive care at a high-volume medical center have better treatment outcomes and are more likely to survive the disease compared with patients treated at low-volume facilities, according to research presented March 11 during the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s annual meeting on women’s cancers in Los Angeles.

 The study evaluated the relationship between treatment facility volumes and survival outcomes by using using data from the National Cancer Database, a joint program of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society. The study has tracked 26 million cancer patients who were treated at 1,500 hospitals across the U.S. Researchers from UPMC; the University of California, San Francisco; Saint Joseph’s Hospital of Creighton University; and Drexel University College of Medicine examined the data of cervical cancer patients from Jan. 1, 1998, to Dec. 31, 2010.

 “Successful treatment requires that multiple medical professionals, including gynecologic oncologists and radiation oncologists, coordinate internal and external radiation treatments and concurrent chemotherapy,” said Jeff Lin, the study’s principal investigator and a fellow in gynecologic oncology within the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences.

“This treatment plan can be very effective for patients with this disease, and higher volume centers are more likely to be able to coordinate the multidisciplinary approach necessary for this kind of care,” Lin added.

The study tallied patient volumes from centers tracked by the National Cancer Database and found that patients were 22 percent more likely to receive brachytherapy, the recommended radiation treatment approach for locally advanced cervical cancer, and nine percent more likely to receive the recommended chemotherapy, if they attended a center that treats a high volume of cervical cancer patients. Overall, patients’ risk of dying from their disease dropped by four percent and they were more likely to receive the standard of care, if they attended such a facility.

 “Thanks to previous research, we’ve known that ovarian cancer patients show improved outcomes if they receive their care from centers that treat a high volume of cases each year,” said Thomas C. Krivak, a professor in the Pitt School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. “This study indicates that the same holds true for patients with cervical cancer. Now we can act on that knowledge.”

While effective screening techniques, coupled with the human papillomavirus vaccine, prevent many early stage cervical cancers from occurring, approximately 12,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease this year in the U.S. When found early, cervical cancer is highly treatable.