Breast reconstruction study offers hope

A PIONEERING study spearheaded in East Anglia could herald a massive step forward for breast cancer patients.

Colin Adwent

A PIONEERING study spearheaded in East Anglia could herald a massive step forward for breast cancer patients.

Professor Jerome Pereira, consultant in general and oncoplastic breast surgery at Gorleston's James Paget Hospital, is at the forefront of a world-first study designed to standardise and improve reconstructive services.

Prof Pereira has acted as lead surgeon on the production of the National Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Audit's second annual report.

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The study looks in detail at access to reconstructive surgery across the country, patterns of care and patient outcomes.

A number of recommendations have been made to cancer networks as a result.

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Prof Pereira who is also lead breast surgeon with the Association of Breast Surgery at the British Association of Surgical Oncology, said: “This is the first study of its kind in the world, and is strongly led by breast and plastic surgeons in the UK.

“It is designed to give us a full picture of exactly what is happening with patients who need reconstructive surgery while measuring patient satisfaction with their care pathway and outcome.

“We hope it will set a benchmark for future standards which will ensure every single appropriate patient in the UK who undergoes a mastectomy is able to undergo immediate reconstruction, should they wish to.”

He explained: “We are encouraged to note that immediate reconstruction rates have doubled since start of the study.

“It is a hugely important piece of work as it identifies areas for improvement while providing cancer networks and NHS trusts with up-to-date, accurate information to help enhance the quality of practice both nationally and internationally.

“The second part of the audit has shown that the number of women offered immediate reconstruction following a mastectomy can vary hugely across the country, ranging from 24% in some areas to nearly 75% in others. This shows that a lot of patients are missing out.

“We have made a number of recommendations to cancer networks to address this imbalance.”

The audit began as a study by Prof Pereira 10 years ago, when he documented the experience of his patients and the outcome of surgery, which he had carried out himself.

His work was heralded as best practice and found a place on the national stage in 2002.

Surgeons around the country have been following Prof Pereira's lead and completing the same audits. The results have now been incorporated into the wider report.

The audit will carry on until 2011, and has been split into several sections. The next annual report will examine the patient's experience while they receive treatment for breast cancer and include perceptions of life both before and after reconstructive surgery.

“This audit has been hailed as one of the most successful to ever take place in the world,” added Prof Pereira. “I hope it brings many benefits for years to come.”

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