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Few surgeons routinely refer breast cancer patients for reconstruction, U-M study finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Forty-four percent of surgeons do not refer the majority of their breast cancer patients to a plastic surgeon prior to the initial surgery when the woman is choosing her treatment course, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The finding may help explain the consistently low number of women who pursue breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

The researchers surveyed 365 surgeons, asking them how often they referred patients considering a mastectomy to a plastic surgeon before performing the mastectomy. The surgeons were identified from a population-based database of women in the Detroit and Los Angeles metropolitan areas who had been treated for breast cancer.

The study found 44 percent of the surgeons referred fewer than a quarter of their patients to a plastic surgeon prior to the mastectomy. Only 24 percent of surgeons referred three-quarters or more of their patients for reconstruction.

The study appears March 26 in the online edition of the journal Cancer.

"Women may be more inclined to choose mastectomy with a good understanding of the reconstructive options. We need to help patients through this difficult decision-making process up front, through patient decision aids that include information about reconstruction and multidisciplinary approaches to care, where all surgical options are fully explained," says lead study author Amy Alderman, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of plastic surgery at the U-M Medical School.

Fewer than 20 percent of women who could have breast reconstruction choose to undergo the procedure. In the current study, the surgeons attributed low rates of reconstruction to patients not wanting the procedure: 57 percent of surgeons said it was not important to patients, 64 percent thought patients were not interested and 39 percent thought patients were concerned that reconstruction takes too long.


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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
26-Mar-2007


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