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Med Care. 2010 Oct;48(10):892-9. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3181ef97df.

Does it matter where you go for breast surgery?: attending surgeon's influence on variation in receipt of mastectomy for breast cancer.

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  • 1Division of General Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.



Concerns about the use of mastectomy and breast reconstruction for breast cancer have motivated interest in surgeon's influence on the variation in receipt of these procedures.


To evaluate the influence of surgeons on variations in the receipt of mastectomy and breast reconstruction for patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer.


Attending surgeons (n = 419) of a population-based sample of breast cancer patients diagnosed in Detroit and Los Angeles during June 2005 to February 2007 (n = 2290) were surveyed. Respondent surgeons (n = 291) and patients (n = 1780) were linked. Random-effects models examined the amount of variation due to surgeon for surgical treatment. Covariates included patient clinical and demographic factors and surgeon demographics, breast cancer specialization, patient management process measures, and attitudes about treatment.


Surgeons explained a modest amount of the variation in receipt of mastectomy (4%) after controlling for patient clinical and sociodemographic factors but a greater amount for reconstruction (16%). Variation in treatment rates across surgeons for a common patient case was much wider for reconstruction (median, 29%; 5th-95th percentile, 9%-65%) then for mastectomy (median, 18%; 5th-95th percentile, 8% and 35%). Surgeon factors did not explain between-surgeon variation in receipt of treatment. For reconstruction, 1 surgeon factor (tendency to discuss treatment plans with a plastic surgeon prior to surgery) explained a substantial amount of the between-surgeon variation (31%).


Surgeons have largely adopted a consistent approach to the initial surgery options. By contrast, the wider between-surgeon variation in receipt of breast reconstruction suggests more variation in how these decisions are made in clinical practice.

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