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Med Care. 1996 Oct;34(10):1003-17.

Dissemination of clinical results. Mastectomy versus lumpectomy and radiation therapy.

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International Center for Health Services Research, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15147, USA.



This study is an assessment of the extent to which clinical findings concerning mastectomy versus lumpectomy with radiation treatment have been disseminated in practice over time.


The authors examined the use of breast-conserving surgery followed by radiation therapy as an alternative treatment to mastectomy for early-stage breast cancer by analyzing 5 years (1986-1990) of inpatient and outpatient claims data from four insurers: Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Blue Shield. The 9,288 women who were eligible for either a lumpectomy or mastectomy during the study period represented approximately 90% of south western Pennsylvania's adult female population. Given the efficacy of both procedures, the authors expected a trend toward more BCS.


By 1990, the use of lumpectomy increased significantly to 42.4% from 35.2%. The choice of lumpectomy was associated with younger women, private health insurance, absence of axillary node metastases, and treatment in urban hospitals. The authors also found, however, that only 45.3% of women with Medicaid coverage who had a lumpectomy during the study period received the requisite follow-up radiation therapy, compared with 77.5% of private insurance subscribers and 88.1% of Medicare beneficiaries. This finding is troubling even though there was substantially more compliance in the later years of the study, with 60.0% of eligible Medicaid beneficiaries receiving follow-up radiation therapy in 1990.


This research illustrates the usefulness of administrative claims data in describing trends and practice patterns as well as the need for a different type of research to discover the reasons for the lack of compliance with treatment protocols by women or physicians.

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