Objective: The impact of breast surgeons on short-term outcomes in breast cancer care was compared at a single institution.
Summary Background Data: Many studies have demonstrated a correlation between high procedural volume and lower mortality in technically challenging procedures. Breast cancer treatment has significant impact on patient behavior, psychology, and appearance. Therefore, evaluation of outcomes cannot be limited to only operative mortality and morbidity. We sought to determine the effect of dedicated breast cancer surgeons on short-term outcomes at a single institution.
Methods: Wishard Memorial Hospital is the county hospital affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine. A retrospective review was performed of all patients from January 1, 1997, to February 28, 2006. On July 1, 2003, coverage for the Breast Clinic was changed from general surgeons (G) to breast surgeons (B). There were 596 patients included in the study period.
Results: There were no significant differences in patient demographics or disease characteristics between the 2 time periods. For early stage (stage I and II) breast cancer, a higher percentage of patients underwent breast conservation in the breast surgeon period than in the general surgeon period (P = 0.04). Lumpectomy margins in breast conserving operations during the G period were more often positive (P = 0.025) or close (<1 mm) (P = 0.01). Similarly, the rates of re-excision lumpectomy were also significantly lower during the B period (21% vs. 39%, respectively, P = 0.01). Breast surgeons were more likely to perform the sentinel node procedure (P = 0.001). There were no differences in the use of adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The use of hormonal manipulation, however, was significantly higher in the B group than in the G group (P < 0.0002).
Conclusions: Surgeons specialized in diseases of the breast demonstrate significant improvement in short-term outcomes associated with breast cancer treatment at a single institution. The differences identified cannot be attributed to differences in institutional function, patient population, surgeon case volume, or on the influence of nonsurgeon physicians.