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Few Surgeons Refer Cancer Patients to Plastic Surgeons

Referrals more likely for female surgeons or those working in cancer centers

TUESDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Many general surgeons do not refer breast cancer patients to a plastic surgeon prior to mastectomy, although female surgeons and those treating many breast cancer patients are more likely to do so, according to a report published online March 26 in Cancer.

Amy K. Alderman, M.D., from the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, and colleagues surveyed 365 general surgeons in Detroit and Los Angeles in 2002 regarding the percentage of mastectomy patients they had referred to a plastic surgeon in the previous two years.

Only 24 percent of surgeons referred more than 75 percent of eligible patients. Surgeons who were women, had a high clinical breast surgery volume (greater than 50 per year) or worked in a cancer center were significantly more likely to have a high referral rate (odds ratio 2.3, 4.1 and 2.4, respectively). Low-referral surgeons said they did not refer patients due to cost, availability of plastic surgeons and a lower patient priority for reconstruction.

"These data support the importance of co-management through multidisciplinary care models," Alderman and colleagues write. "Women need more opportunities to discuss reconstructive options to make informed surgical treatment decisions about their breast cancer."

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