Background. There are a variety of surgical choices for women with early-stage breast cancer, including breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy, or mastectomy plus reconstructive surgery. This report examines some of the factors that affect these choices and the costs of the various treatment options. Methods. Data from the Virginia Cancer Registry were linked to insurance claims from the Trigon Blue Cross and Blue Shield Company for women with local and regional staged breast cancer from 1989 to 1991 in Virginia. Multivariate analyses and cost studies were performed. Results. There were 592 women who underwent breast-conserving surgery (BCS, 26%), mastectomy (58%), or mastectomy plus reconstruction (16%). Increasing age reduced the use of reconstruction. The choice of reconstruction was not affected by tumor size, nodal status, or race. Sixty percent of women had immediate breast reconstruction at the time of mastectomy; the majority had the implant procedure. The cost of BCS ($21,582) was higher than that of mastectomy ($16,122, P < .01). The costs for BCS and mastectomy were significantly lower than for mastectomy plus reconstruction ($31,047, P < .05). The 2-year cost for immediate reconstruction was $8200 less than for delayed procedures and was similar to the cost of BCS. Conclusions. Age was the driving force in reconstruction decisions. Clinical factors such as tumor size and nodal status were more important for the choice between BCS and mastectomy. There are significant cost differences between the various procedures. For a similar cosmetic outcome, BCS is less expensive than breast reconstruction. When reconstruction is required, a simultaneous procedure is less expensive.
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