A comparison of international breast cancer guidelines - do the national guidelines differ in treatment recommendations?

Eur J Cancer. 2012 Jan;48(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2011.06.020. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Aim of the study: Clinical practice guidelines (CPG) are an appropriate method to optimise routine clinical care. Numerous CPGs for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer have been developed by national health institutions or medical societies. While a comparison of methodological criteria has been undertaken before, it is unknown whether these CPGs differ in their actual treatment recommendations.

Methods: We included national breast cancer CPGs from the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, and Germany that satisfy internationally recognised methodological criteria and are in widespread use in daily clinical care. Treatment recommendations for adjuvant invasive breast cancer including surgery, radiation, endocrine therapy, chemotherapy and anti-HER2-therapy were compared.

Results: Recommendations for endocrine therapy show discordances regarding optimal usage of ovarian function suppression for premenopausal patients and aromatase inhibitors for postmenopausal patients. However, most other treatment recommendations exhibit a large degree of congruency. This reflects the fact that they rest on the same evidence base, and that many national guidelines are adopted from other guidelines so that well accepted guidelines are cited within other guidelines.

Concluding statement: Considering that the development of guidelines is a very expensive and resource-intensive task the question arises whether the development of national guidelines in numerous countries is worth the effort since the recommendations differ only marginally.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • Federal Government
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Mastectomy / methods
  • Mastectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Oncology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Neoplasm Grading
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2