Tuesday 10 May, 2005.
New Zealand women with breast cancer are getting world-class treatment, according to a new study being conducted through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
The National Breast Cancer Audit (NBCA) has become one of the largest-ever studies into the type and quality of surgical care being offered for any disease in New Zealand and Australia.
The audit now has data on more than 37,000 episodes of breast cancer treatment conducted by approximately 300 surgeons since 1998. The statistics are being used to determine what treatments are being offered and where. They also set minimum surgical standards to ensure quality care.
The Clinical Director of the NBCA Dr James Kollias from the Royal Adelaide Hospital told the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Annual Scientific Congress in Perth yesterday that the statistics showed that both New Zealand and Australian breast cancer treatment was of an “extremely high standard”.
He said the study indicated that the rates of mastectomy, partial mastectomy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment were in-line with best-practice overseas.
“The NBCA is one of the largest surgical audit projects ever undertaken and the information it is giving us, as to treatment choices and results, is incredibly important.
“From the early results we can say that very few surgeons in New Zealand and Australia lie outside the minimum standards set.” he says.
Dr Kollias says new treatment for early breast cancer which reduces the amount of underarm tissue taken to determine the spread of cancer is proving effective.
The new treatment, called Sentinel Node Biopsy aims to remove one or two lymph glands to determine if cancer has spread instead of taking multiple lymph nodes.
“We believe that when breast cancer spreads into the armpit it goes to the first lymph node, then the second and then on – rather than all at once, so if we can identify and remove the first node and it doesn’t have cancer then the cancer should not spread,” Dr Kollias said.
“In the past, women who have had a larger number of lymph nodes removed have often experienced arm stiffness, pain and arm swelling (lymphoedema). By limiting the amount of tissue taken we can reduce this with very effective results.”
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress (May 9 -13) is hosting some 1,500 surgeons and has invited specialists from New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the US to discuss the cutting edge of surgical science and to investigate the trends within the profession.