Skip to content

Advertisement

BMC Health Services Research

What do you think about BMC? Take part in

Open Access
Open Peer Review

This article has Open Peer Review reports available.

How does Open Peer Review work?

Treatment variation in patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in Alberta from 2002 to 2010: a population-based study

  • Stacey Fisher1,
  • He Gao1,
  • Yutaka Yasui1,
  • Kelly Dabbs2 and
  • Marcy Winget1, 3Email author
BMC Health Services Research201515:35

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-015-0680-z

Received: 15 July 2014

Accepted: 5 January 2015

Published: 22 January 2015

Abstract

Background

Breast-conserving surgery (BCS) followed by radiotherapy is generally the preferred treatment for women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. This study aimed to investigate the proportion of patients who receive BCS versus mastectomy and post-BCS radiotherapy, and explore factors associated with receipt of these treatments in Alberta, Canada.

Methods

A retrospective population-based study was conducted that including all patients surgically treated with stage I-III breast cancer diagnosed in Alberta from 2002–2010. Clinical characteristics, treatment information and patient age at diagnosis were collected from the Alberta Cancer Registry. Log binomial multiple regression was used to calculate stage-specific relative risk estimates of receiving BCS and post-BCS radiotherapy.

Results

Of the 14 646 patients included in the study, 44% received BCS, and of those, 88% received post-BCS radiotherapy. The adjusted relative risk of BCS was highest in Calgary and lowest in Central Alberta for all disease stages. Relative to surgeries performed in Calgary, those performed in Central Alberta were significantly less likely to be BCS for stage I (RR = 0.65; 95% 0.57, 0.72), II (RR = 0.58; 95% 0.49, 0.68), and III (RR = 0.62; 95% CI: 0.37, 0.95) disease, respectively, adjusting for patient age at diagnosis, clinical and treatment characteristics. No significant variation of post-BCS radiotherapy was found.

Conclusions

Factors such as region of surgical treatment should not be related to the receipt of standard care within a publicly-funded health care system. Further investigation is needed to understand the significant geographic variation present within the province in order to identify appropriate interventions.

Keywords

Breast cancerPopulation-basedRadiotherapySurgery

Background

Standard surgical treatment for breast cancer has evolved over the last three decades leading to significantly improved outcomes [1]. Many women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer have the option of receiving either mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery (BCS) followed by adjuvant radiotherapy. This option is due to results of several clinical trials and meta-analyses which have demonstrated equivalent survival for women who receive these two treatment options [2-4]. BCS with radiotherapy is recommended as the preferred treatment option because BCS is a less invasive procedure, provides a better cosmetic outcome and is associated with less morbidity compared to mastectomy [5]. Research also suggests that those who receive mastectomy have significantly inferior body image, poorer sexual function, lower quality of life and a lower surgical satisfaction rate compared to those who receive BCS [6-9]. Receipt of BCS has been found to be associated with patient age and socioeconomic status in addition to tumor characteristics [10-13].

The receipt of radiotherapy is a vital component of treatment for women who receive breast-conserving surgery. A recent meta-analysis found that the 15-year breast cancer mortality risk was reduced by 5.4% (30.5% versus 35.9%) and the 5-year local recurrence risk was reduced by 19% (7% versus 26%) among women with early stage breast cancer who received BCS with versus without radiotherapy [14]. Receipt of radiotherapy after BCS has been found to be associated with patient age and race, geography, operating surgeon, and patient distance from radiotherapy facilities [15-17].

The purpose of this study was to: 1) assess the proportion of early stage breast cancer patients surgically treated with BCS versus mastectomy, 2) assess the proportion of those treated with BCS who subsequently receive radiotherapy, and 3) explore factors associated with the treatments received in Alberta, Canada. Alberta has a publicly-funded health care system, therefore, assessing variation in care and patient outcomes are important accountability factors for Alberta Health Services, the provincial provider of healthcare. Understanding treatment patterns and variation in jurisdictions is useful for informing potential strengths and issues that may exist in other similar jurisdictions and possibly dissimilar jurisdictions.

Methods

All cases of stage I, II or III breast cancer (International Classification of Diseases for Oncology [ICD-O-3] code c50 [18]) diagnosed in adult women from 2002 to 2010 who received breast cancer surgery were identified from the Alberta Cancer Registry. Cases of breast cancer were excluded if: 1) the cancer was not the first primary breast cancer diagnosis; 2) if the histology indicated it was a sarcoma, lymphoma or hematopoietic tumor and, 3) if the patient had another cancer diagnosis within 6 months prior to the breast cancer case, for this may influence breast cancer treatment decisions. Patient age, clinical, and treatment information were obtained from the cancer registry including: date of diagnosis; age at diagnosis; estrogen and progesterone receptor (ER/PR) status; cancer stage; type of surgery; geographic region of surgery; receipt of neo-adjuvant and adjuvant chemotherapy; receipt of post-operative radiotherapy; and receipt of hormone therapy. Cancer stage was determined using the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) 5th edition staging rules for years 2002 and 2003 and the 6th edition for years 2004–2010 [19,20]. Geographic region of surgery was categorized into the five administrative health zones of Alberta. The province of Alberta consists of an area of 662,000 km2 and has a population of 3.7 million. Approximately 80% of the population reside in urban areas [21]. Patients diagnosed in 2002 and 2003 who received hormone therapy were classified as ER/PR positive, while those who did not receive hormone therapy were classified as ER/PR negative, since estrogen and progesterone receptor data was not collected in these years. If ER/PR status was missing in patients diagnosed from 2004 to 2010, the case was assumed to be ER/PR positive (N = 108), since roughly 75% of breast cancers in North American are ER/PR positive [22]. Sensitivity analysis found that this assumption did not affect the study results. The Alberta Cancer Registry was awarded the highest level of certification by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries in all years of the study for its high level of completeness and for the timeliness of data collection and reporting.

Data analyses were performed on two different outcomes: receipt of BCS and receipt of radiotherapy after BCS. First, descriptive statistics were calculated for the demographic, clinical, and treatment characteristics of the breast cancer patients by receipt of BCS and stage at diagnosis; Chi-square and Fisher exact tests were used to determine statistical differences. Log-binomial multiple regression was then used to calculate stage-specific relative risk (probability ratio) estimates of receiving BCS by the following factors: age at diagnosis; geography of surgery; year of diagnosis; ER/PR status; and neo-adjuvant chemotherapy status. Interaction between year of diagnosis and geography of surgery was also assessed through an interaction model; interaction effects were displayed separately from the main effect model stratified by year of diagnosis and geography of surgery to enable easier interpretation (shown in Additional file 1: Tables S1-1, S1-2 and S1-3). The log-binomial regression method provides relative risk estimates as a measure of association using binary outcome data which are easier to interpret than odds ratios obtained from the more traditional logistic regression model.

The same data analysis procedures described above were used to assess associations with receipt of radiotherapy after BCS with slight modifications. For this outcome, hormone therapy was combined with ER/PR status as a single variable to assess whether ER/PR positive patients who did not receive hormone therapy were also less likely to receive radiotherapy after BCS. Secondly, adjuvant chemotherapy status was included in the regression model because receipt of adjuvant chemotherapy could affect whether a patient received post-surgical radiation. Log-binomial regression with the COPY method was used [23].

All statistical analyses were performed using SAS statistical software version 9.3 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA). This study received ethics approval from the Health Research Ethics Board of the University of Alberta.

Results

There were 14 933 patients diagnosed with stage I, II or III first-ever breast cancer diagnosed in Alberta from 2002 to 2010, excluding patients with non-solid tumors and those who had another cancer diagnosis within 6 months prior to their breast cancer diagnosis. Patients who were not treated with surgery (281 patients) and those who received an unknown or other surgery type were also excluded (6 patients). The final cohort consists of 14 646 patients.

Patient age, clinical and treatment characteristics and their associations with receipt of BCS are shown in Table 1. A total of 6 458 patients (44%) received BCS. The proportion of patients treated with BCS was 57%, 37% and 17%, for stage I, II and III cancers, respectively, and was relatively constant over the study period. Regardless of stage, the proportion of patients treated with BCS was highest when surgery occurred in an urban center (Edmonton or Calgary), when treatment with neo-adjuvant chemotherapy was not utilized, and when patients were less than 70 years old.
Table 1

Characteristics of stage I-III breast cancer patients who received breast conserving surgery (BCS) 1

 

Stage I

Stage II

Stage III

 

BCS

Total

BCS

Total

BCS

Total

N (%)2

N

N (%)2

N

N (%)2

N

Overall

4067 (57)

7091

2060 (37)

5619

331 (17)

1936

Age at diagnosis

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P = 0.018

 

<50

880 (58)

1509

656 (40)

1638

112 (18)

628

50-59

1171 (63)

1853

585 (41)

1417

101 (20)

505

60-69

1051 (58)

1801

430 (38)

1144

66 (18)

370

70-79

697 (50)

1394

248 (29)

861

27 (11)

251

≥80

268 (50)

534

141 (25)

559

25 (14)

182

Geography of surgery

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P = 0.20

 

Calgary

1637 (62)

2659

901 (42)

2156

139 (19)

739

South

289 (50)

577

145 (30)

490

25 (17)

146

Central

178 (39)

461

112 (24)

473

17 (11)

157

Edmonton

1849 (58)

3180

832 (37)

2258

134 (17)

804

North

114 (53)

214

70 (29)

242

16 (18)

90

Year of diagnosis

P = 0.09

 

P = 0.39

 

P = 0.85

 

2002-2004

1277 (56)

2296

632 (36)

1767

86 (16)

522

2005-2007

1315 (58)

2284

668 (36)

1842

124 (18)

701

2008-2010

1475 (59)

2511

760 (38)

2010

121 (17)

713

ER/PR status

P = 0.04

 

P = 0.22

 

P = 0.15

 

Positive

3407 (58)

5885

1686 (37)

4551

266 (18)

1495

Negative

660 (55)

1206

374 (35)

1068

65 (15)

441

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

Not received

4060 (58)

7054

1994 (37)

5336

303 (20)

1523

Received

7 (19)

37

66 (23)

283

28 (7)

413

1P values reflect Chi square tests of association for BCS versus mastectomy.

2The denominator for each percentage is the number of patients in the adjacent row for the same stage of disease.

Table 2 displays the characteristics of breast cancer patients by geographic region of surgery. Most patients received surgery in one of the two urban centers, Calgary (38%) or Edmonton (43%). Patients differed to some extent in age distribution, clinical disease and treatment by geography of surgery. The percentage of patients under age 60 who received surgery in Southern or Central Alberta was 45-47% whereas patients under age 60 comprised 50-55% of the patients in the other regions. The percentage of patients with ER/PR negative disease ranged from a low of 16% in Calgary to a high of 25% in the North. Patients who received surgery in Northern Alberta, were also more likely to have stage II/III cancers (60%), and to receive neo-adjuvant (8%) and adjuvant chemotherapy (43%), compared to patients from other regions.
Table 2

Characteristics of breast cancer patients by geographic region of surgery

 

Geography of surgery

 

Calgary

South

Central

Edmonton

North

N (%)

N (%)

N (%)

N (%)

N (%)

Total

5554 (38)

1213 (8)

1091 (7)

6242 (43)

546 (4)

Surgical treatment

     

Mastectomy

2877 (52)

754 (62)

784 (72)

3427 (55)

346 (63)

BCS

2677 (48)

459 (38)

307 (28)

2815 (45)

200 (37)

With Radiation

2381 (89)

369 (80)

253 (82)

2492 (89)

168 (84)

Without Radiation

296 (11)

90 (20)

54 (18)

323 (11)

32 (16)

Stage

     

I

2659 (48)

577 (48)

461 (42)

3180 (51)

214 (39)

II

2156 (29)

490 (40)

473 (43)

2258 (36)

242 (44)

III

739 (13)

146 (12)

157 (14)

804 (13)

90 (16)

Age at diagnosis

     

<50

1597 (29)

244 (20)

256 (23)

1522 (24)

156 (29)

50-59

1471 (26)

298 (25)

265 (24)

1603 (26)

138 (25)

60-69

1170 (21)

284 (23)

247 (23)

1487 (24)

127 (23)

70-79

875 (16)

235 (19)

203 (19)

1103 (18)

90 (16)

≥80

441 (8)

152 (13)

120 (11)

527 (8)

35 (6)

Year of diagnosis

     

2002-2004

1761 (32)

390 (32)

365 (33)

1900 (30)

169 (31)

2005-2007

1824 (33)

405 (33)

354 (32)

2052 (33)

192 (35)

2008-2010

1969 (35)

418 (34)

372 (34)

2290 (37)

185 (34)

ER/PR status

     

Positive

4659 (84)

975 (80)

846 (76)

5044 (81)

407 (75)

Negative

895 (16)

238 (20)

245 (22)

1198 (19)

139 (25)

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

     

Not Received

5322 (96)

1187 (98)

1035 (95)

5865 (94)

504 (92)

Received

232 (4)

26 (2)

56 (5)

377 (6)

42 (8)

Adjuvant chemotherapy

     

Not Received

3460 (62)

825 (68)

657 (60)

3962 (63)

312 (57)

Received

2094 (38)

388 (32)

434 (40)

2280 (37)

234 (43)

The stage-specific adjusted relative risk estimates of receiving BCS are displayed in Table 3. For all stages, receipt of BCS was associated with age less than 70 years at diagnosis and not receiving neo-adjuvant chemotherapy treatment. Substantial variation in the receipt of BCS was found by geographic area of surgery for stage I and II disease. The adjusted relative risk of BCS was highest in Calgary and lowest in Central Alberta for all disease stages. Relative to surgeries performed in Calgary, those performed in Central Alberta were significantly less likely to be BCS for stage I (RR = 0.65; 95% CI: 0.57, 0.72), II (RR = 0.58; 95% CI: 0.49, 0.68), and III (RR = 0.62; 95% CI: 0.37, 0.95) disease, respectively, adjusting for age at diagnosis, year of diagnosis, ER/PR status and receipt of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. In the most recent time period (2008–2010), among stage I and II patients less than 70 years of age, 1601 (48%) patients received mastectomy, while 1707 (52%) patients received BCS; 578 (46%), 152 (57%), 144 (67%), 650 (45%) and 68 (58%) patients from Calgary, Southern, Central, Edmonton and Northern Alberta received mastectomy, as opposed to BCS. BCS uptake among stage I and II patients increased significantly over the study period in Edmonton (P < 0.05), decreased among stage II patients in Central Alberta (P < 0.05) and remained fairly steady in the other regions and in stage III patients over the study period (Additional file 1: Tables S1–1, S1–2 and S1–3).
Table 3

Adjusted 1 relative risk estimates of receiving BCS rather than mastectomy

 

Adjusted1relative risk estimates (95% confidence intervals)

 

Stage I

Stage II

Stage III

Age at diagnosis

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

<50

1.00

1.00

1.00

50-59

1.08 (1.02, 1.14)

1.03 (0.95, 1.13)

1.10 (0.86, 1.39)

60-69

1.01 (0.95, 1.07)

0.94 (0.86, 1.03)

0.95 (0.72, 1.24)

70-79

0.87 (0.81, 0.93)

0.71 (0.63, 0.80)

0.53 (0.35, 0.77)

≥80

0.87 (0.79, 0.95)

0.62 (0.53, 0.73)

0.63 (0.41, 0.92)

Geography of surgery

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

P = 0.30

Calgary

1.00

1.00

1.00

South

0.83 (0.76, 0.90)

0.74 (0.63, 0.85)

0.92 (0.61, 1.32)

Central

0.65 (0.57, 0.72)

0.58 (0.49, 0.68)

0.62 (0.37, 0.95)

Edmonton

0.96 (0.92, 1.00)

0.91 (0.85, 0.98)

0.95 (0.77, 1.18)

North

0.88 (0.77, 0.99)

0.72 (0.58, 0.88)

0.95 (0.57, 1.45)

Year of diagnosis

P = 0.24

P = 0.40

P = 0.99

2002-2004

1.00

1.00

1.00

2005-2007

1.02 (0.97, 1.08)

1.02 (0.94, 1.11)

1.02 (0.80, 1.31)

2008-2010

1.04 (0.99, 1.09)

1.06 (0.97, 1.15)

1.02 (0.79, 1.31)

ER/PR status

P = 0.11

P = 0.34

P = 0.44

Positive

1.00

1.00

1.00

Negative

0.96 (0.90, 1.01)

0.96 (0.88, 1.04)

0.91 (0.70, 1.15)

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

Not Received

1.00

1.00

1.00

Received

0.32 (0.15, 0.57)

0.57 (0.45, 0.70)

0.31 (0.21, 0.45)

1Adjusted for all variables in the table.

Table 4 displays the relationship between patient age, clinical, and treatment characteristics and their associations with receipt of radiotherapy in the subgroup of patients treated with BCS. Of the 6 458 patients treated with BCS, 88% subsequently received adjuvant radiotherapy. The proportion of patients that received radiotherapy after BCS was 89%, 86%, and 83% for stage I, II and III breast cancers, respectively. Receipt of radiotherapy was highest among patients with ER/PR negative and ER/PR positive cancers treated with hormone therapy, those who received surgery in an urban area (Edmonton or Calgary), those who received adjuvant chemotherapy and in those younger than 80 years of age, regardless of the cancer stage. Patients aged 80 years or older at diagnosis were at least 40% less likely to receive radiation after BCS compared to patients aged 70–79 years at diagnosis in all disease stages.
Table 4

Characteristics of breast cancer patients who received radiotherapy treatment after breast conserving surgery 1

 

Stage I

Stage II

Stage III

 

Post-surgical radiation

Received BCS

Post-surgical radiation

Received BCS

Post-surgical radiation

Received BCS

N (%)2

N

N (%)2

N

N (%)2

N

Overall

3607 (89)

4067

1780 (86)

2060

276 (83)

331

Age at diagnosis

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

<50

821 (93)

880

599 (91)

656

93 (83)

112

50-59

1096 (94)

1171

521 (89)

585

94 (93)

101

60-69

971 (92)

1051

392 (91)

430

57 (86)

66

70-79

601 (86)

697

211 (85)

248

23 (85)

27

≥80

118 (44)

268

57 (40)

141

9 (36)

25

Geography of surgery

P < 0.001

 

P = 0.001

 

P = 0.70

 

Calgary

1485 (91)

1637

783 (87)

901

113 (81)

139

South

236 (82)

289

113 (78)

145

20 (80)

25

Central

149 (84)

178

90 (80)

112

14 (82)

17

Edmonton

1640 (89)

1849

738 (89)

832

114 (85)

134

North

97 (85)

114

56 (80)

70

15 (94)

16

Year of diagnosis

P = 0.06

 

P = 0.01

 

P = 0.10

 

2002 - 2004

1148 (90)

1277

565 (89)

632

78 (91)

86

2005 - 2007

1145 (87)

1315

560 (84)

668

101 (81)

124

2008 - 2010

1314 (89)

1475

655 (86)

760

97 (80)

121

ER/PR Status & Hormone therapy

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

ER/PR positive & received hormone

2337 (93)

2514

1399 (92)

1516

213 (90)

237

ER/PR positive & no hormone

685 (77)

893

79 (46)

170

7 (24)

29

ER/PR negative

585 (89)

660

302 (81)

374

56 (86)

65

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

P = 0.57

 

P = 0.36

 

P = 0.10

 

Not received

3601 (89)

4060

1720 (86)

1994

256 (84)

303

Received

6 (86)

7

60 (91)

66

20 (71)

28

Adjuvant chemotherapy

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

P < 0.001

 

Not received

2951 (87)

3381

617 (75)

823

52 (55)

95

Received

656 (96)

686

1163 (94)

1237

224 (95)

236

1P values reflect Chi square tests of association for BCS versus mastectomy.

2The denominator for each percentage is the number of patients who received breast conserving surgery in the adjacent row for the same stage of disease.

Table 5 displays the stage-specific adjusted relative risk estimates of receiving radiotherapy after BCS. Patients aged 80 years or older were 51%, 47% and 36% less likely to be treated with adjuvant radiotherapy for stage I (RR = 0.49; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.56), stage II (RR = 0.53; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.64), and stage III (RR = 0.64; 95% CI: 0.34, 1.05) cancers, respectively, compared to those less than 50 years of age, adjusting for age at diagnosis, year of diagnosis, ER/PR status and hormone therapy, neo-adjuvant chemotherapy and adjuvant chemotherapy. Patients who were ER/PR positive but did not receive hormone therapy were 14%, 41% and 65% less likely to receive radiation after BCS in stage I (RR = 0.86; 95% CI: 0.83, 0.89), II (RR = 0.59; 95% CI: 0.49, 0.68), and III (RR = 0.35; 95% CI: 0.16, 0.60) cancers, respectively, than those who were ER/PR positive and received hormone therapy. Treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy was also associated with receipt of radiotherapy, after adjustment, in stage II (RR = 1.08; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.13) and III (RR = 1.37; 95% CI: 1.14, 1.84) cancers, compared to not being treated with adjuvant chemotherapy. No significant geographical variation of post-BCS radiotherapy receipt was found.
Table 5

Adjusted 1 relative risk estimates of receiving radiotherapy treatment after breast conserving surgery

 

Adjusted1relative risk estimates (95% confidence interval)

 

Stage I

Stage II

Stage III

Age at diagnosis

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

P = 0.37

<50

1.00

1.00

1.00

50-59

1.00 (0.98, 1.02)

0.99 (0.96, 1.02)

1.02 (0.96, 1.10)

60-69

0.99 (0.96, 1.01)

1.02 (0.99, 1.04)

1.02 (0.92, 1.10)

70-79

0.94 (0.91, 0.97)

1.01 (0.96, 1.04)

1.03 (0.90, 1.11)

≥80

0.49 (0.43, 0.56)

0.53 (0.43, 0.64)

0.64 (0.34, 1.05)

Geography of surgery

P = 0.09

P = 0.07

P = 0.87

Calgary

1.00

1.00

1.00

South

0.96 (0.91, 1.00)

0.94 (0.86, 1.00)

1.03 (0.89, 1.11)

Central

0.96 (0.91, 1.01)

0.97 (0.90, 1.01)

1.03 (0.86, 1.11)

Edmonton

0.99 (0.98, 1.01)

1.00 (0.98, 1.03)

1.03 (0.97, 1.10)

North

0.95 (0.88, 1.00)

0.92 (0.81, 1.01)

1.03 (0.82, 1.12)

Year of diagnosis

P = 0.25

P = 0.15

P = 0.96

2002 - 2004

1.00

1.00

1.00

2005 - 2007

0.99 (0.97, 1.01)

0.97 (0.94, 1.00)

1.00 (0.94, 1.06)

2008 - 2010

1.00 (0.98, 1.02)

0.98 (0.96, 1.01)

0.99 (0.92, 1.06)

ER/PR Status & Hormone therapy

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

ER/PR positive & received hormone

1.00

1.00

1.00

ER/PR positive & no hormone

0.86 (0.83, 0.89)

0.59 (0.49, 0.68)

0.35 (0.16, 0.60)

ER/PR negative

0.94 (0.91, 0.97)

0.89 (0.84, 0.93)

0.95 (0.85, 1.02)

Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy

P = 0.33

P = 0.04

P = 0.86

Not received

1.00

1.00

1.00

Received

0.89 (0.52, 1.05)

1.10 (1.00, 1.14)

1.03 (0.72, 1.47)

Adjuvant chemotherapy

P = 0.62

P < 0.001

P < 0.001

Not received

1.00

1.00

1.00

Received

1.01 (0.98, 1.02)

1.08 (1.05, 1.13)

1.37 (1.14, 1.84)

1Adjusted for all variables in the table.

Discussion

In this study, 44% of early stage breast cancer patients diagnosed from 2002 to 2010 in Alberta received breast conserving surgery, as opposed to mastectomy (57%, 37% and 17% of stage I, II and III patients, respectively). Similar population-based results have been reported in the Netherlands, where 48% of patients diagnosed between 2003 and 2006 received BCS (63%, 41% and 19% of stage I, II and III patients, respectively) [24]. BCS receipt among patients in the United States is higher, with estimates ranging from 50% to 70% [17,25-28]. Within Canada, estimates range from 74% in Quebec to 31% and 35% in Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, respectively [29]. Tyldesley et al. (2003) have estimated that in North America, 70% of all breast cancers are eligible for BCS, and 48 ± 6% of cases are both eligible and prefer it to mastectomy [30]. The great variation present within and between countries, however, suggests that there is not a consensus on standard practice.

In a publicly-funded health care system, factors such as region of residence should not be related to the receipt of standard treatment. This study found significant variation in surgical breast cancer treatment received by geography in Alberta, while finding no apparent geographical variation in the receipt of post-BCS radiotherapy. The consistent finding across disease stage that the highest rate of mastectomy is in Central Alberta is rather surprising. Poor access to radiation therapy has been associated with low BCS rates in other studies [25,27,28], and may partially explain the geographic variation we found. At the time of this study, however, patients in Central Alberta did not have worse access to radiation facilities compared to those in Northern or Southern Alberta; in fact, many patients in Central Alberta live significantly closer to radiation facilities than those in Southern or Northern Alberta, suggesting better access. While poor access to radiation therapy may partially explain the lower BCS rates in Northern and Southern Alberta which have lower population densities than Central Alberta, the lower rates in Central Alberta suggests that distance to radiotherapy is not the only important factor influencing choice of surgical treatment.

Geographic variation in the receipt of breast conserving surgery has also been found in other health care systems, including in the Netherlands [24] and in Switzerland [31]. The results from both of these studies also suggest that distance to radiotherapy is not the primary reason for the observed geographic variation; the authors suggest instead that provider-related factors are a more likely explanation. We make the same hypothesis for the present results in Alberta, factors such as provider volume and preferences, which have been associated with patient surgery type received, influence the receipt of BCS by breast cancer patients differentially across the province [32,33]. Publicly-funded health care systems do not ensure equity of care by region, and effort is needed to further investigate and address these inequities. Since 2010, Alberta Health Services has increased the number of sites which provide radiotherapy across the province. Investigation into how this affects geographical variation of BCS receipt in the future will help elucidate the impact of access to radiation compared to other factors.

Of patients who received BCS, 88% subsequently received radiation therapy. In comparison, it can be estimated that around 80% of patients from the United States receive post-BCS radiation [15,17,27], and it has been reported that 99% of patients in the Netherlands received this treatment in 2008, rising from 87% in 1997 [34]. These estimates suggest that physicians collectively recognize the importance of radiotherapy treatment after BCS. We found that the proportion of patients who received post-BCS radiotherapy dropped dramatically with age greater than 80 years, however. This can be attributed to unclear advantages of radiotherapy in this population when life expectancy, potential toxicity and comorbidities are taken in to account. There has been substantial recent discussion as to whether or not postoperative radiotherapy can be reasonably omitted in some women over the age of 70 with low-risk breast cancer [35-37].

A great strength of this study is that it is population-based and thus contains the entire population of interest in Alberta over an eight year period. In practice, treatment choices are made based on various factors including patient preference, feasibility (e.g. distance and access to transportation), and the presence of comorbidities. It is, therefore, of clinical interest to investigate treatments received in a population based series of patients. In addition to this, the data source used is known for being very complete and accurate, as the Alberta Cancer Registry captures 99.9% of cancer cases. A limitation of the study, however, was our inability to assess patient preferences and contraindications for breast-conserving surgery due to the nature of the data source. For example, there may be residual confounding of the BCS geography association by tumor size beyond that explained by stage as patients with very large tumors may be more likely to reside in rural areas. We were also not able to account for confounding by economic status, race or surgeon preference, all of which may explain some of the geographic variation seen. Further interpretation of the BCS receipt results could have been achieved if a subgroup analysis had been performed, in which patients with contraindications for BCS, such as those with very large tumors, were excluded.

Conclusions

This study found significant geographic variation in BCS receipt and consistently high rates of adjuvant radiation in those who received BCS across the province. Overall, treatment patterns did not change between 2002 and 2010, although some area-specific trends were found. Further investigation is needed to understand the low rates of breast-conserving surgery in certain parts of the province, such as Central Alberta, compared to other parts in order to identify appropriate interventions. This study provides strong baseline information on variation in rates of BCS and subsequent radiation therapy in Alberta over an eight year time period which will be useful for evaluating the effectiveness of interventions that are implemented in the future.

Abbreviations

BCS: 

Breast-conserving surgery

CI: 

Confidence interval

ER: 

Estrogen receptor

PR: 

Progesterone receptor

RR: 

Relative risk

Declarations

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
School of Public Health, University of Alberta
(2)
Department of Surgery, University of Alberta
(3)
Department of Medicine, Stanford University

References

  1. Ho A, Morrow M. The evolution of the locoregional therapy of breast cancer. Oncologist. 2011;16:1367–79.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Jatoi I, Proschan MA. Randomized trials of breast-conserving therapy versus mastectomy for primary breast cancer: a pooled analysis of updated results. Am J Clin Oncol. 2005;28(3):289–94.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. van der Hage JA, Putter H, Bonnema J, Bartelink H, Therasse P, van de Velde CJ, et al. Impact of locoregional treatment on the early stage breast cancer patients: a retrospective analysis. Eur J Cancer. 2003;39(15):2192–9.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Fisher B, Anderson S, Bryant J, Margolese RG, Deutsch M, Fisher ER, et al. Twenty-year follow-up of a randomized trail comparing total mastectomy, lumpectomy, and lumpectomy plus irradiation for the treatment of invasive breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:1233–41.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. National Institutes of Health. NIH Consensus Conference. Treatment of early stage breast cancer. JAMA. 1991;265(3):391–5.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  6. Sun Y, Kim SW, Heo CY, Kim D, Hwang Y, Yom CK, et al. Comparison of quality of life based on surgical technique in patients with breast cancer. Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2014;44(1):22–7.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Engel J, Kerr J, Schlesinger-Raab A, Sauer H, Holzel D. Quality of life following breast-conserving therapy or mastectomy: Results of a 5-year prospective study. Breast J. 2004;10(3):223–31.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Han J, Grothuesmann D, Neises M, Hille U, Hillemanns P. Quality of life and satisfaction after breast cancer operation. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2010;282:75–82.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Koch L, Jansen L, Herrmann A, Stegmaier C, Holleczek B, Singer S, et al. Quality of life in long-term breast cancer survivors- a 10-year longitudinal population-based study. Acta Oncol. 2013;52:1119–28.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Freedman RA, Virgo KS, Labadie J, He Y, Partridge AH, Keating NL. Receipt of locoregional therapy among young women with breast cancer. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012;135(3):893–906.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. White A, Richardson LC, Krontiras H, Pisu M. Socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer treatment among older women. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2014;23(4):335–41.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  12. Alderman AK, Bynum J, Sutherland J, Birkmeyer N, Collins ED, Birkmeyer J. Surgical treatment of breast cancer among the elderly in the United States. Cancer. 2011;117(4):698–704.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. McGuire KP, Santillan AA, Kaur P, Meade T, Parbhoo J, Mathias M, et al. Are mastectomies on the rise? A 13-year trend analysis of the selection of mastectomy versus breast conserving therapy in 5865 patients. Ann Surg Oncol. 2009;16:2682–90.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Clarke M, Collins R, Darby S, Davies C, Elphinstone P, Evans E, et al. Effects of radiotherapy and of differences in the extent of surgery for early breast cancer on local recurrence and 15-year survival: an overview of the randomized trials. Lancet. 2005;366(9503):2087–106.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Feinstein AJ, Soulos PR, Long JB, Herrin J, Roberts KB, Yu JB, et al. Variation in receipt of radiation therapy after breast-conserving surgery: assessing the impact of physicians and geographic regions. Med Care. 2013;51(4):330–8.View ArticlePubMedPubMed CentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Dragun AE, Huang B, Tucker TC, Spanos WJ. Disparities in the application of adjuvant radiotherapy after breast-conserving surgery for early stage breast cancer. Cancer. 2011;117(12):2590–8.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Tuttle TM, Jarosek S, Habermann EB, Yee D, Yuan J, Virnig BA. Omission of radiation therapy after breast-conserving surgery in the United States: a population-based analysis of clinicopathologic factors. Cancer. 2012;118(8):2004–13.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Fritz A, Percy C, Jack A, Shanmugaratnam K, Sobin L, Parkin DM, Whelan S (Eds): International Classification of Diseases for Oncology, 3rd ed. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2000.Google Scholar
  19. Fleming ID, Cooper JS, Henson DE, Hutter RVP, Kennedy BJ, Murphy GP, O’Sullivan B, Sobin LH, Yarbro JW (Eds): Cancer Staging Manual, 5th ed. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1997.Google Scholar
  20. Greene FL, Page DL, Fleming ID, Fritz AG, Balch CM, Haller DG, Morrow M (Eds): Cancer Staging Manual, 6th ed. New York: Springer-Verlag, 2002.Google Scholar
  21. Statistics Canada. Population, urban and rural, by province and territory (Alberta). Population, urban and rural, by province and territory, Population estimates and projections, Population and democracy. 2011. Summary Tables, 2011, last updated February 4.Google Scholar
  22. Li C, Daling JR, Malone KE. Incidence of invasive breast cancer by hormone receptor status from 1992 to 1998. J Clin Oncol. 2003;21(1):28–34.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Deddens JA, Petersen MR, Lei X. Estimation of prevalence ratios when PROC GENMOD does not converge. Paper 270–28. Proceedings of the 28th Annual SAS Users Group International Conference. Cary NC: SAS Institute Inc (Available from: http://www2.sas.com/proceedings/sugi28/270-28.pdf.) 30 March–2 April 2003.
  24. van Steenbergen LN, van de Poll-Franse LV, Wouters MWJM, Jansen-Landheer ML, Coebergh JW, Struikmans H, et al. Variation in the management of early breast cancer in the Netherlands, 2003–2006. Eur J Surg Oncol. 2010;36 Suppl 1:S36–43.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Boscoe FP, Johnson CJ, Henry KA, Goldberg DW, Shahabi K, Elkin EB, et al. Geographic proximity to treatment for early stage breast cancer and likelihood of mastectomy. Breast. 2011;20(4):324–8.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Habermann EB, Abbott A, Parsons HM, Virnig BA, Al-Refaie WB, Tuttle TM. Are mastectomy rates really increasing in the United States? J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(21):3437–41.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Celaya MO, Rees JR, Gibson JJ, Riddle BL, Greenberg ER. Travel distance and season of diagnosis affect treatment choices for women with early-stage breast cancer in a predominately rural population (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 2006;17(6):851–6.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Schroen AT, Brenin DR, Kelly MD, Knaus WA, Slingluff Jr CL. Impact of patient distance to radiation therapy on mastectomy use in early-stage breast cancer patients. J Clin Oncol. 2005;23(28):7074–80.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Canadian Institute for Health Information. Breast Cancer Surgery in Canada, 2007–2008 to 2009–2010. Ottawa, Ont.: CIHI; 2012.Google Scholar
  30. Tyldesley S, Foroudi F, Barbera L, Boyd C, Schulze K, Walker H, et al. The appropriate rate of breast conserving surgery: an evidence-based estimate. Clin Oncol. 2003;15(3):144–55.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  31. Ess S, Savidan A, Frick H, Rageth CH, Vlastos G, Lutolf U, et al. Geographic variation in breast cancer care in Switzerland. Cancer Epidemiol. 2010;34(2):116–21.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McDermott AM, Wall DM, Waters PS, Cheung S, Sibbering M, Horgan K, et al. Surgeon and breast unit volume-outcome relationships in breast cancer surgery and treatment. Ann Surg. 2013;285(5):808–13.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  33. Peltoniemi P, Huhtala H, Holli K, Pylkkanen L. Effect of surgeon’s caseload on the quality of surgery and breast cancer recurrence. Breast. 2012;21(4):539–43.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Struikmans H, Aarts MJ, Jobsen JJ, Koning CC, Merkus JW, Lubeert ML, et al. An increased utilization rate and better compliance to guidelines for primary radiotherapy for breast cancer from 1997 till 2008: a population-based study in the Netherlands. Radiother Oncol. 2011;100(2):320–5.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Sautter-Bihl ML, Sedlmayer F, Budach W, Dunst J, Feyer P, Fietkau R, et al. When are breast cancer patients old enough for the quitclaim of local control? Strahlenther Onkol. 2012;188(12):1069–73.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Giordano SH. Radiotherapy in older women with low-risk breast cancer: why did practice not change? J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(14):1577–8.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kaidar-Person O, Walker G, Morgan DA, Kuten A. Radiotherapy in older women with low-risk breast cancer: why has practice not changed? J Clin Oncol. 2012;30(31):3899–900.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright

© Fisher et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Advertisement