Colorectal cancer in South Africa: An assessment of disease presentation, treatment pathways and 5-year survival

M Brand, P Gaylard, J Ramos


Background. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most common cancer in South Africa (SA), and the sixth most lethal. Approximately 25% of patients will have synchronous metastatic disease at the time of their primary CRC diagnosis. Although chemotherapy is used in most stages of the disease, surgical resection of the primary tumour and metastases remains the most successful treatment modality to achieve cure or prolong survival. To date, no data on CRC presentation and management have been published in SA.

Objectives. To determine CRC presentation, general management patterns and overall survival in the SA private healthcare sector.

Methods. A retrospective review of a private healthcare funder’s database from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2015. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (10th revision) (ICD-10) diagnosis codes were used to identify colorectal cancer and liver and/or pulmonary metastatic disease. Procedure codes assigned to hospital admissions were used to identify type of surgical treatment. Chemotherapy was identified by the World Health Organization Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification System of medicines. Treatment patterns were determined and 5-year survival rates for these were calculated. Survival was estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method, and Cox proportional hazards regression was used for between-group comparisons of survival. Data analysis was carried out using SAS version 9.4 for Windows.

Results. A total of 3 412 patients were included in the study, 2 267 with CRC only and 1 145 with liver (LM) or pulmonary metastases (PM). The mean age was 64.1 years (range 21 - 97), and 54.6% were male; these did not differ statistically between the study groups. Twenty percent of patients with LM or PM underwent surgical resection of their metastases. Five-year survival rates following surgical resection of all disease for CRC only, CRCLM, CRCPM and CRCLMPM were 71.7%, 57.3%, 31.5% and 26.0%, respectively.

Conclusions. SA CRC patients treated in the private healthcare sector have similar disease presentation to that in published international series, with similar outcomes following various treatment pathways; however, it seems that fewer resections of metastases are undertaken compared with international trends.


Authors' affiliations

M Brand, Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa; School of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

P Gaylard, Data Management and Statistical Analysis, Johannesburg, South Africa

J Ramos, Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Epidemiology; Colorectal cancer; Liver metastases; Pulmonary metastases

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2018;108(2):118-122. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v108i2.12338

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-02-01
Date published: 2018-02-01

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