Baseline radiological staging in primary breast cancer: impact of educational interventions on adherence to published guidelines
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RATIONALE: The purpose of baseline radiological staging in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients is to rule out overt metastatic disease. We have previously compared the use of radiological staging at our institution with the recommendations of the Cancer Care Ontario Practice Guidelines Initiative (CCOPGI). Our results demonstrated that between January 2000 to December 2002, a high proportion of our cohort (n = 135) of patients underwent unnecessary investigations. OBJECTIVES: To implement and assess an educational intervention to encourage staging guideline utilization in a cohort of early breast cancer patients. METHODS: In January 2003, multidisciplinary educational rounds were held, highlighting the CCOPGI guidelines, and reporting results of the audit of staging investigations. The staging guidelines were then included in the Clinical Practice Guidelines of the Breast Disease Site Group, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre. A retrospective chart review was completed that assessed staging investigations from a random sample of a similar group of patients (n = 134) from January 2003 to April 2005, to explore the effects of these educational interventions on clinical practice. RESULTS: For patients with Stage I breast cancer, there was a significant decrease (P < 0.004) in each type of investigation: a twofold decrease in chest X-rays; 2.5-fold decrease bone scans and fourfold decrease in the number of abdominal ultrasounds. For patients in Stage II, there was no significant change in the proportion of patients undergoing radiological investigations. There was a non-significant trend towards appropriately receiving all three investigations for patients with Stage III disease. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that prior to the educational intervention, many patients with early breast cancer were undergoing inappropriate radiological staging. Since 2003 however, for Stage I patients there has been a significant improvement in adherence with the guidelines. We hypothesize that our educational intervention had a positive impact on improving the utilization of baseline radiological staging in patients with primary breast cancer.