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Patterns of initial management of node-negative breast cancer in two Canadian provinces


Objective — To describe the patterns of initial management of node-negative breast cancer in Ontario and British Columbia and to compare the characteristics of the patients and tumours and of the physicians and hospitals involved in management.

Design — Retrospective, population-based, cohort study.

Participants — All 942 newly diagnosed cases of node-negative breast cancer in 1991 in British Columbia and a random sample of 938 newly diagnosed cases in Ontario in the same year.

Outcome Measures — Number and proportion of patients with newly diagnosed node-negative breast cancer who received breast-conserving surgery (BCS) or mastectomy and who received radiation therapy after BCS.

Results — BCS was used in 413 cases (43.8%) in British Columbia and in 634 cases (67.6%) in Ontario (p < 0.001). After BCS, radiation therapy was received by 378 patients (91.5% of those who had undergone BCS) in British Columbia and 479 patients (75.6% of those who had undergone BCS) in Ontario (p < 0.001). In both provinces, lower patient age, smaller tumour size, a noncentral unifocal tumour, absence of extensive ductal carcinoma in situ and initial surgery by a surgeon with an academic affiliation were associated with greater use of BCS. Lower patient age and larger tumour size were associated with greater use of radiation therapy after BCS in both provinces.

Conclusion — Patient, tumour and physician factors are associated with the choice of initial management of breast cancer in these two Canadian provinces. However, the differences in management between the two provinces are only partly explained by these factors. Other possible explanations, such as the presence of provincial guidelines, differences in the organization of the healthcare system or differences in patient preference, require further research.



Goel V, Olivotto I, Hislop TG, Sawka C, Coldman A, Holowaty EJ. CMAJ. 1997; 156(1):25-35.

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