Challenges with colorectal cancer staging: results of an international study

Dipti M. Karamchandani, Runjan Chetty, Tonya S. King, Xiuli Liu, Maria Westerhoff, Zhaohai Yang, Rhonda K. Yantiss, David K. Driman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Challenges exist with standardized colorectal cancer reporting despite adoption of the American Joint Committee on Cancer-Staging Manual 8th edition. We performed this study to gauge current practice patterns among a diverse group of surgical pathologists. A web-based questionnaire depicting problematic issues and images related to colorectal carcinoma staging was circulated among 118 surgical pathologists and their responses were correlated with their geographic location (North America vs. Europe vs. others), nature of practice (academic vs. community), the sign-out model (gastrointestinal subspecialty vs. general surgical pathology), and years of professional experience. We found that a substantial number of practicing pathologists ignore recommended-staging criteria in specific settings, particularly with respect to assessment of advanced T stage. Tumors that communicated with the serosa through inflammatory foci were staged as pT3 (49%) or pT4a (51%) by nearly equal numbers of pathologists regardless of level of experience, the sign-out model, or geographic location. Only 65% assigned T stage and margin status based on extent of viable tumor in the neoadjuvant setting. One-third of pathologists, particularly those in Europe (p = 0.015), classified acellular mucin deposits as N1 disease when detected in treatment-naive cases. Nearly 50% of pathologists classified isolated tumor cells (i.e., deposits <0.2 mm) in lymph nodes as metastatic disease (i.e., pN1, p = 0.02). Our results suggest that pathologists ignore recommendations that are based on insufficient data and apply individualized criteria when faced with situations that are not addressed in the American Joint Committee on Cancer Staging Manual 8th edition. These variations in practice limit the ability to compare outcome data across different institutions and draw attention to areas that require further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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