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World First for New Zealand Breast Cancer Research

World First for New Zealand Breast Cancer Research

In a world first for breast cancer, surgeons in New Zealand and Australia will use leading-edge information technology to collect data on the treatment of their patients.

Expected to improve the quality of care for all early breast cancer patients, the initiative was developed by surgeons from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). It involves a vast electronic store of information so that breast surgeons can compare their surgical performance.

The online database was launched today in Adelaide by South Australian MP Trish Worth and will be managed by the Australian Safety and Efficacy Register of New Interventional Procedures (Surgical), a research programme of RACS.

New Zealand breast surgeon Mr John Collins, Chair of the RACS Breast Section Executive, describes this as a “tremendous innovation that will allow breast cancer surgeons to compare their own results with those of their peers, ensuring that all surgeons meet certain standards in breast cancer surgery.

“By consenting to the release of medical information, patients have the satisfaction of knowing that they are contributing to knowledge that could help not only themselves but thousands of other women with breast cancer,” Professor Collins said.

This online database will provide the first completely up-to-date picture of the surgical management of early breast cancer throughout Australasia. Previously, paper-based entries meant that data could be weeks old by the time it was transcribed. Now breast surgeons sitting in their consulting rooms can log onto the National Breast Cancer Audit website to enter information into the database as soon as a patient has received treatment.

The name of the patient will not entered into the database and will remain unknown to staff working on the audit. Breast Audit staff analyse the information, compile reports containing statistics about breast surgery and create a practice profile for each surgeon made up of all of his/her breast cancer patients.

Individual surgeons may access their own practice profile online, and consumers will have access to reports on the aggregate data as they are published through the website. This specially applies to rural surgeons who perform a small number of breast operations to participate in the audit and compare themselves with other breast surgeons in Australasia.

Lyn Swinburne, Breast Cancer Network Australia’s CEO, says “the Breast Audit should improve the quality of care for breast cancer patients. We would strongly encourage women referred to a breast surgeon to ask whether he or she is a participant in the audit.”

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