Comparison of elapsed times from breast cancer detection to first adjuvant therapy in Nova Scotia in 1999/2000 and 2003/04

Rayson, Daniel; Saint-Jacques, Nathalie; Younis, Tallal; Meadows, Jason; Dewar, Ron
January 2007
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;1/30/2007, Vol. 176 Issue 3, p327
Academic Journal
Background: Waiting times for cancer care continue to be an important issue for Canadians. We evaluated 2 cohorts of breast cancer patients to compare changes in elapsed times to care, to determine the proportion of patients who received their postoperative oncology consultation within the recommended time and to examine elapsed times between date of surgery and start of first adjuvant therapy. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of all women with surgically treated breast cancer who were referred to a provincial cancer centre for adjuvant therapy. The first cohort comprised women referred between Sept. 1, 1999, and Sept. 1, 2000 (n = 342), and the second cohort comprised women referred between Sept. 1, 2003, and Sept. 1, 2004 (n = 295). A general linear model with a stepwise selection was used to identify dominant factors that influenced elapsed times; covariates included cohort period, age at diagnosis, place of residence, disease stage, type of surgery, type of adjuvant therapy, distance to cancer centre, median household income and mean education level. Results: The overall median time from disease detection to the start of first adjuvant therapy for the combined cohorts was 96 days (quartiles 76, 122); this interval was longer for patients in the second cohort (90 v. 102 days, p < 0.001). For the combined cohorts, significantly more patients saw a radiation oncologist within the recommended time from date of surgery than did patients referred to a medical oncologist (82.7% v. 51.7%; p < 0.001). Patients who received adjuvant radiation therapy as their first adjuvant treatment waited longer from the date of definitive surgery to the start of treatment than did patients who received chemotherapy or hormonal treatment (77 v. 48 or 42 days; p < 0.001). Interpretation: The median elapsed time from the detection of breast cancer to the start of first adjuvant therapy was longer in the second cohort (referred in 2003/04) than in the first cohort (referred in 1999/2000). The proportion of patients whose first oncology consultation was within the recommended timeframe varied significantly according to type of oncology specialist, favouring radiation oncology. Despite this difference in access, patients whose first adjuvant therapy was systemic therapy experienced significantly shorter elapsed times from surgery to the start of adjuvant therapy than did patients whose first adjuvant therapy was radiation therapy.


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