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Med Care. 2003 Mar;41(3):442-6.

Physicians' reasons for failing to deliver effective breast cancer care: a framework for underuse.

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1
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Health Policy, New York, New York 10029, USA. Nina_Bickell@mountsinai.org

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Despite numerous randomized trials showing the health benefits of systemic and local therapies for early-stage breast cancer, underuse of these therapies remains a significant quality problem. Little is known about causes of underuse of effective cancer treatments. We sought to understand these causes to design effective interventions to improve care.

RESEARCH DESIGN:

To identify categories of causes of underuse, semistructured interviews were performed with physicians of breast cancer patients who did not receive effective adjuvant care in the 4 years following surgery. Underuse was defined by expert consensus based on evidence-based guidelines.

SUBJECTS:

Surgeons (n = 13) of all early-stage breast cancer cases who underwent surgical treatment at a tertiary care hospital and had underuse of local or systemic adjuvant therapies.

RESULTS:

Of all the 275 women with early-stage breast cancer, there were 44 episodes of underuse of effective therapies (16%). In 48% of cases, physicians thought treatment should occur but the treatment failed to take place (32%) or the patient refused (16%). For the other 52% of cases, physicians thought treatment should not occur because evidence did not support treatment in clinical circumstances such as older age (32%), a good prognosis based on tumor size or histology (11%), a second primary breast cancer (5%), or because of comorbidities (5%). All surgeons were aware of the benefits of adjuvant treatments.

CONCLUSIONS:

Causes of underuse can be identified and categorized. Using these categories, a framework of causes of underuse was constructed and interventions targeting the specific causes to improve the quality of care are suggested.

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