Volumes of cancer surgery for breast, colorectal and ovarian cancer 1992-97: Is there evidence of increasing sub-specialization by surgeons?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The 'Calman-Hine Report' (1995) recommended that cancer surgery should be limited to 'high-volume' consultants. Through an analysis of 5 years of Hospital Episode Statistics for the West Midlands region (1992-1997), we have investigated whether there is evidence of increasing numbers of patients with breast. colorectal or ovarian cancer being treated by high throughput, i.e. sub-specialist surgeons, who carry out more than a threshold level of primary cancer resections annually. The proportion of cases treated by the high-volume breast, colorectal and ovarian cancer surgeons increased annually during the 5 years. The absolute number of consultant firms who undertook breast cancer resections reduced during the 5 years; but the number doing colorectal and ovarian surgery increased. Throughout the 5 years, half of the ovarian cancer resections were carried out by consultant firms who did very few procedures - less than 5 of these procedures annually. The relatively high case-load, the elective nature of breast cancer surgery and an early policy change have undoubtedly facilitated the move towards sub-specialization. The weaker trends for colorectal and ovarian cancer surgery suggest continued monitoring is required to ensure that there is a reduction in the proportion of people treated by surgeons who undertake few cancer resections annually. (C) 2001 Cancer Research Campaign.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1308-1313
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
Early online date15 May 2001
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2001


  • volume of clinical activity, ovarian neoplasms, colorectal neoplasms, breast neoplasms