Delays in time to treatment and survival impact in breast cancer

Ann Surg Oncol. 2010 Oct;17 Suppl 3:291-6. doi: 10.1245/s10434-010-1250-6. Epub 2010 Sep 19.


Background: Time interval from diagnosis of breast cancer to treatment has been promulgated as one factor that can be used to evaluate cancer care quality. It remains controversial, however, whether a delay to treatment impacts survival. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether delays from diagnosis to initial treatment in breast cancer impacts survival.

Materials and methods: A retrospective review of patients undergoing breast cancer treatment between August 2005 and December 2008 in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary breast oncology program was undertaken. Two hospital systems were included: a county hospital (CH) treating a primarily minority, indigent population and a university hospital (UH) treating a primarily Caucasian, insured population. Interval to treatment, calculated from date of diagnosis to surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment, and overall survival was compared between the two groups.

Results: A total of 1337 patients were included; 634 patients were treated in the CH and 703 in the UH. Interval to treatment was longer in the CH compared with the UH (53.4 ± 2.0 vs 33.2 ± 1.2 days; mean ± standard error of the mean [SEM], P < .0001). Patients treated at the CH had overall worse survival (P = .02); however, this difference did not hold true when controlled for stage. Additionally, when time to treatment was analyzed as an individual variable for all patients, there was no impact on survival.

Conclusions: Interval from diagnosis to treatment of breast cancer within the same cancer center was longer at the CH than the UH. There was, however, no effect on overall survival. Time to treatment may not be a meaningful indicator of cancer care quality.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Time Factors