Multiple treatment guidelines and practice standards have been developed regarding the management of patients with breast carcinoma. Few evaluations of the penetration and utility of these practice standards have been performed. In 1992, the American College of Surgeons (ACOS), the American College of Radiology, the College of American Pathologists, and the Society of Surgical Oncology collaborated in establishing standards for breast-conservation treatment (BCT). The authors sought to determine whether practice patterns for patients with breast carcinoma who underwent BCT were consistent with these standards 2 years after their dissemination and to establish whether compliance varied by the same patient and hospital variables that predicted for the amount of BCT performed.
A study specific questionnaire was circulated to cancer registrars through the Commission on Cancer of the ACOS asking them to submit reports on patients with Stage I and II breast carcinoma who were diagnosed in 1994. Eight hundred forty-two predominantly community hospitals throughout the United States responded, yielding a total of 16,643 analyzable patients. The frequency of compliance to the 1992 published practice standards for 7097 patients who received BCT was determined. The variation in compliance rates by patient age, race, and insurance status and the treating hospital's geographic locations and cancer programs were evaluated.
Of the 22 standards that were evaluated in the areas of preoperative mammography (2 standards), labeling of the surgical specimen (3 standards), pathology report content (10 standards), radiation after lumpectomy (6 standards), and systemic therapy for patients with positive lymph nodes (1 standard), treatment adherence was ≥ 80% for 16 standards (73%). Poor compliance was demonstrated for six standards: the documentation of an abnormality's size in the mammogram report, labeling the lumpectomy specimen with the affected quadrant of the breast, spatial orientation of the lumpectomy specimen and inclusion of lymphatic/vascular invasion, ductal carcinoma in situ, and macroscopic margin assessment in the pathology report. Variation in compliance to a standard occurred frequently across the type of hospital cancer program and geographic region (77% for both), and variation occurred less across the patient variables of age (32%), race (41%), and payer (23%). There was not a pattern of more frequent compliance among variables associated with more BCT use.
Large-scale evaluation of the penetration of treatment standards is feasible. For patients who underwent lumpectomy, practice appeared to be consistent (≥ 80% compliance), with 73% of 22 treatment standards evaluated. The standards with poor compliance represent areas for targeted physician education and reevaluation. Significant differences in adherence to a standard were seen frequently based on a hospital's geographic location and type of cancer program. This emphasizes the importance of adequate dissemination of treatment standards to ensure penetration into medical practices of all types.Cancer 2003;97:893–904. © 2003 American Cancer Society.