• breast conservation therapy;
  • early stage breast cancer;
  • medical insurance;
  • radiation therapy



Multiple prospective, randomized studies show that breast conservation therapy (BCT) results in survival rates equal to mastectomy (Mx) for patients with early stage breast cancer (ESBC). Nevertheless, BCT remains underused in certain areas of the nation, without clearly definable reasons. Several studies have implicated socioeconomic status as one potential cause for this disparity in BCT usage. We sought to compare BCT rates in the medically indigent versus insured patients, within the same institution.


Data from 1993 to 2000, collected from the institutional tumor registry and the hospital's claims records, were analyzed for 928 patients with ESBC (Stages 0, I, and II), treated at a single medical center. The same surgeons treated both insured and indigent patients. Patients treated by BCT or Mx were compared for age, race, stage, insurance status, access to a radiation therapy center, surgeon, and year of diagnosis.


Patient age, race, surgeon, or insurance status did not significantly affect the rate of mastectomy. Stage I patients (P < 0.001) and those treated after 1995 had higher BCT rates (54.9% in 1993–95 vs. 70.7% in 1996–2000; P < 0.001). Travel distance to a radiation therapy center had no significant impact on BCT rates, except for patients >40 miles distant.


These data refute the hypothesis that socioeconomic status, as reflected by medical insurance, is a determinant of BCT in women with ESBC. Distance of <40 miles to a radiation therapy facility, Stage I disease, and diagnosis after 1995 were factors associated with higher BCT rates. J. Surg. Oncol. 2003;84:57–62. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.