The Relationship of Membership in Research Networks to Compliance With Treatment Guidelines for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

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Background:Research has shown that older women with breast cancer are less likely than younger women to receive treatment in accordance with accepted guidelines. Cancer-related research networks (eg, Comprehensive Cancer Centers) have been funded by the National Cancer Institute to increase the dissemination of new treatment strategies, but little is known about their relationship to cancer treatment patterns.Objectives:We used a 3-level hierarchical regression model to examine the relationship of treating facilities’ memberships in cancer research networks to compliance with guidelines for primary treatment of early stage breast cancer, controlling for patient and facility factors.Research Design:We analyzed data from a database linking SEER registry data and Medicare claims in patients aged 65 years of age or older with early-stage breast cancer to data on the treating facility, including variables that indicate membership(s) in cancer research networks.Subjects:A total of 16,600 women with stage I or stage II breast cancer, diagnosed between 1990 and 1994, and who received treatment in one of 423 facilities were studied.Measures:The key independent variable in this analysis was membership in NCI-funded cancer research networks. The outcome measure is a 3-category variable defined as (1) mastectomy (MAST), (2) breast-conserving surgery plus radiation therapy (BCS+RT), or (3) BCS alone.Results:Patients treated at facilities that were members of 2 or more cancer research networks were more likely to receive guideline-concordant treatment (ie, MAST or BCS+RT) than similar patients treated at nonmember facilities.Conclusions:Organizational factors may influence compliance with treatment guidelines and be useful in improving the quality of care.

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