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Wait times for breast cancer surgery: effect of magnetic resonance imaging and preoperative investigations on the diagnostic pathway

Nessim C, Winocour J, Holloway DP, Saskin R, Holloway CM. J Oncol Pract. 2015; 11(2):e131-8. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


Purpose — Women with breast cancer often require an extensive diagnostic work-up. The researchers sought to determine the overall wait time, from the patient's perspective, from identification of an imaging abnormality to definitive treatment. The objective was to identify which factors contribute to overall wait time in women with breast cancer.

Methods — A retrospective chart review in a tertiary care center was performed to identify all women who had breast surgery for invasive carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ. The researchers recorded the dates of first imaging abnormality, first biopsy, subsequent imaging and biopsy, first consultation with any physician at the cancer center, first surgical consultation, and date of surgery. Clinical data that might influence these dates were then extracted. Wait times were calculated and factors associated with wait times were described.

Results — Eligible consecutive women with a cancer diagnosis (n = 264) were identified. The median time between first imaging abnormality and definitive surgery was 79 days. The median time from first surgical consultation to surgery was significantly longer in women who underwent magnetic resonance imaging and in women who underwent initial imaging outside of the tertiary care center (P < .05). On multivariable analysis, the modifiable factors associated with prolonged wait times included number of preoperative clinic visits, number of visits to radiology, and initial imaging outside of the center (P < .05).

Conclusion — Extensive diagnostic work-up is an important factor that affects the time to definitive surgery. A more integrated approach using a rapid diagnostic clinic for tissue diagnosis initially, followed by facilitated preoperative evaluation, may potentially decrease wait times in breast evaluation.

Keywords: Breast cancer Diagnostic testing/imaging Health care evaluation

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