Use of Postmastectomy Radiotherapy in Older Women

Benjamin D. Smith, Bruce G. Haffty, Grace L. Smith, Arti Hurria, Thomas A. Buchholz, Cary P. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose: Clinical trials and guidelines published between 1997 and 2001 concluded that postmastectomy radiotherapy (PMRT) improves overall survival for women with high-risk breast cancer. However, the effect of these findings on current practice is not known. Using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare cohort, we sought to characterize the adoption of PMRT from 1992 to 2002 and identify risk factors for PMRT omission among high-risk older patients. Methods and Materials: We identified 28,973 women aged ≥66 years who had been treated with mastectomy for invasive breast cancer between 1992 and 2002. Trends in the adoption of PMRT for low- (T1-T2N0), intermediate- (T1-T2N1), and high- (T3-T4 and/or N2-N3) risk patients were characterized using a Monte Carlo permutation algorithm. Multivariate logistic regression identified the risk factors for PMRT omission and calculated the adjusted use rates. Results: Postmastectomy radiotherapy use increased gradually and consistently for low-risk (+2.16%/y) and intermediate-risk (+7.20%/y) patients throughout the study interval. In contrast, PMRT use for high-risk patients increased sharply between 1996 and 1997 (+30.99%/y), but subsequently stabilized. Between 1998 and 2002, only 53% of high-risk patients received PMRT. The risk factors for PMRT omission included advanced age, moderate to severe comorbidity, smaller tumor size, fewer positive lymph nodes, and geographic region, with adjusted use rates ranging from 63.5% in San Francisco to 44.9% in Connecticut. Conclusion: Among the high-risk patients, PMRT use increased sharply in 1997 after the initial clinical trial publication. Despite subsequent guidelines recommending the use of PMRT, no further increase in PMRT use has occurred, and nearly 50% of high-risk patients still do not receive PMRT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


  • Breast cancer in older women
  • Postmastectomy radiotherapy
  • Quality of care
  • Treatment patterns
  • Use of radiotherapy


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