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Race of the Clock: Reducing Delay to Curative Breast Cancer Surgery

Loretta Loftus, Christine Laronga, Karen Coyne, and Lynne Hildreth

Analysis of Moffitt Cancer Center data on time from breast biopsy to first definitive surgery showed an average of 6.9 weeks, which concerned the breast program faculty members. Delays in curative surgery may impact mortality, quality of life, and time to adjuvant therapy. The purpose of this study was to analyze steps from breast biopsy to definitive breast cancer surgery and to develop proposals and strategies for improvement. Data were collected from various sources, including the tumor registry, patient appointment system, tumor board lists, and the NCCN Oncology Outcomes Database for Breast Cancer. Three phases of the surgical process were identified with regard to lead time: biopsy to first consult (BX-FC); first consult to tumor board (FC-TB); and tumor board to surgery (TB-SU). Other factors, including operating room capacity and schedules, were also evaluated. The greatest percentage of total lead time occurred in the TB-SU phase (52% vs 35% in BX-FC, and 13% in FC-TB phases). The longest average lead time, 3.6 weeks, was also in the TB-SU phase. The TB-SU time was greatest when surgery was scheduled after tumor board and if surgery required breast reconstruction. Limitation of physician capacity was a major factor in treatment delay. The Opportunity for Improvement project enabled institutional analysis of the need for quality improvement in time for curative surgery for breast cancer. A significant factor that created time delay was physician capacity. As a result, additional faculty and staff have been recruited. A new expanded facility is currently in progress that will provide more physical space and services.