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This Week's Colorectal Cancer News in Brief: January 30

This week’s reports include information about mismatch repair genes in stage IV colorectal cancer, colon surgery complications for very obese patients, and the impact of computerization on hospital outcomes.

In addition, there are links to the Surgeon General’s new Family Health Portrait and a report from Families USA on health care insurance costs for laid off workers.

Brief Research Reports

  • Patients with deficient mismatch repair genes are rare in stage IV colorectal cancer.  Although cancer related to deficient mismatch repair is found in 10 to 20 percent of earlier stage patients and is associated with better survival, it was found in only 3.5 percent of stage IV patients taking part in a clinical trial.  Those patients had a lower survival than patients with proficient mismatch repair genes (10.2 months compared to 17.9).  Researchers concluded that cancers with deficient mismatch repair have a reduced ability to spread beyond the colon itself (metastasize).  M. Koopman, British Journal of Cancer, online January 22, 2009.
  • Morbidly obese have worse outcomes after colon cancer surgery. After colectomies, complications occur in more than 30 percent of patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 34 compared to 20.5 percent of normal weight patients.  More frequent complications include kidney failure, surgical site infection, wounds reopening, and pulmonary embolism.  Occuring in 20.7 percent of patients, site infections were more than twice as common in the morbidly obese. Ryan P. Merkow, M.D. in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, January 2009.
  • Paperless hospital information systems reduce complications, patient deaths, and hospital costs.  Researchers scored the impact of computerizing clinical notes and records, order entries, and decision support in 41 hospitals treating nearly 170,000 patients.  For all hospitals, a 10 percent increase in the technology score resulted in a 15 percent lower death rate.  When doctors had access to decision-making support from computer systems, complications fell by 16 percent.  In addition, computerization lowered bottom-line hospital expense. Ruben Amarasingham, MD, MBA in Archives of Internal Medicine, January 16, 2009.

Other Colorectal Cancer Headlines

  • The Surgeon General has updated My Family Health Portrait. Information from the revised online program is not kept on a government or any other site, but is downloaded to an individual’s own computer to protect privacy.  It can then be shared with other family members or doctors.  Family members can add their own information, as well.
  • Purchasing extended health insurance guaranteed by COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985) is almost impossible for laid off workers according to a new report from Families USA.  Although benefits and insurance costs vary by state, the national average $1,069 monthly cost for to replace a family policy would use up 84 percent of $1,278 unemployment insurance benefits.  Individual benefits costs average $388, about a third of monthly benefits.  In the US, 61 percent of people get medical coverage from their own or a family member’s employer. Families USA Report: Squeezed: Caught between Unemployment Benefits and Health Care Costs, January 2009.

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