Purpose — Practice guidelines for cancer management have been in use in the province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, since the mid 1970s. To evaluate practice guideline compliance, treatment received was compared with treatment recommended in a population-based cohort of women with breast cancer.
Methods — All incident cases (n = 939) of invasive, pathologically node-negative breast cancer diagnosed in 1991 were identified from the BC Cancer Registry. Treatment details were abstracted from cancer clinic records for cases referred to the BC Cancer Agency (BCCA) (n = 661) and original source documents for nonreferred cases. Management decisions were considered compliant if the patient received the recommended treatment or was entered onto a randomized trial of the modality being assessed.
Results — Overall compliance with adjuvant therapy guidelines was 97% for radiotherapy, 96% for chemotherapy, and 89% for tamoxifen. An oncology specialist was consulted by 94% of patients with an indication for adjuvant treatment and by 58% of those without an indication (odds ratio [OR] = 10.7; 95% confidence interval, 7.0 to 16.4). Compliance with a guideline to deliver radiotherapy was 95%; with chemotherapy, 77%; and with tamoxifen, 68%. Compliance with a guideline that stated no adjuvant treatment was indicated was 99% for radiotherapy, 98% for chemotherapy, and 92% for tamoxifen. Noncompliance among patients with an indication for treatment was related to nonreferral to an oncology specialist and less complete implementation of guideline changes in the community as compared with cancer center practices.
Conclusion — Compliance was high, but scheduled updating and more effective community implementation could further improve consistency of care.