Majority of women satisfied with breast cancer surgery services

In collaboration with Adfero

The majority of women who have a mastectomy or breast reconstruction surgery as part of their treatment for breast cancer say they receive high-quality care, an audit has found.

Researchers analysed data on 7,000 women who were treated in NHS or independent hospitals and completed questionnaires three months and 18 months after their mastectomy and/or breast reconstruction surgery.

Overall, 88 per cent of patients said they had been treated with respect and dignity while in hospital, while 90 per cent said they care had been 'excellent' or 'very good'.

More than 90 per cent of patients were very satisfied with their consultant surgeon and 85 per cent were similarly impressed by the team's professionalism.

The figures contained in the National Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction Audit - commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership and published by the NHS Information Centre - are the first on how patients view the outcome of these procedures.

They show that 85 per cent of women who had breast reconstruction surgery at the time of their mastectomy said they felt confident in a social setting 18 months later, compared with 77 per cent who did not have reconstructive surgery.

Breast reconstruction was also associated with higher levels of emotional and sexual wellbeing compared with mastectomy alone.

But, the proportion of women who said the overall outcome of their operation was excellent or very good was similar for both groups - 73 per cent among those having a mastectomy alone, and 67 per cent among those who had breast reconstruction.

Carmel Sheppard, the audit's lead breast care nurse, said: "The results of this audit highlight the benefits of breast reconstruction that some women with breast cancer experience following mastectomy.

"It is essential that clinical teams work together to ensure all women, where appropriate, are offered access, information and choice regarding surgery. Breast care nurses particularly play an important role in providing support and information to women throughout the breast cancer treatment journey."

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, welcomed the audit's results.

He said: "This is the first time we have been able to see, on a national scale, what patients think about the results of their breast surgery and it's an important example of how valuable surgical audit is for clinicians to improve standards of care.

"I hope that the conclusion of this four-year study acts as a prelude for more open access to data on breast surgery so that surgeons can improve by copying examples of best practice and commissioners can secure the best services for patients."

The audit was also welcomed by Professor Simon Kay, a member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, who revealed that advanced microsurgical skills now enable breast reconstruction to be performed using a woman's own abdominal skin and fat.

He said: "This audit demonstrates that microsurgical reconstruction provides the highest quality outcomes for women across the country.

"Ultimately, every woman should be granted access to the best reconstructive treatment for them, including those which for many will require the skills of a plastic surgeon."

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head information nurse, said: "Breast cancer can have a huge impact on a woman's life. So it's good to see that such a high proportion of women surveyed were satisfied with their surgery and the way they were treated.

"It's vital that patients have access to good quality information about cancer so that they understand what's involved in treatment.

"Cancer Research UK provides a wide range of patient information services to help patients."