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Are patients with newly diagnosed breast cancer getting appropriate DEXA scans? A District General Hospital experience
Breast cancer patients are often at high risk of fragility fractures partly due to adjuvant endocrine therapy such as aromatase inhibitors and chemotherapy. Baseline dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scanning is recommended as a standard of care in identifying patients who are at risk so they can be commenced on bone protective therapy. NICE guideline 80 – “Early and locally advanced breast cancer” states that patients with early invasive breast cancer should have a baseline DEXA scan to assess BMD before the commencement of aromatase inhibitor treatment; if patients have treatment-induced menopause or are starting ovarian ablation/suppression therapy. We have audited the performance of a DGH against these guidelines with a target of 100% concordance. During a one year period (April 2012-April 2013), 100 patients with a new diagnosis of breast cancer were selected at random from the hospital coding database. 100 patients were chosen as this was a convenient sample size. We gathered information for these patients using electronic records, letters, and imaging. This showed a poor compliance of 38% against NICE guidelines. This in turn means that patients with low BMD at diagnosis of breast cancer are being under diagnosed and under treated, resulting in increased potential morbidity associated with fragility fractures. The interventions that resulted from this audit were: dissemination of these results to surgical and oncology departments, posters summarising the guidelines put up in breast clinics, and breast MDTs to discuss the need for DEXA scans for patients with breast cancer. A re-audit was performed for patients diagnosed with early, invasive breast cancer in January 2014 where a compliance of 90% was achieved. This represents a huge improvement in compliance from the baseline measure of 38%. In order to show that this improvement could be sustained, two further cycles were performed in February and March 2014, where the compliance was 92% and 100% respectively. Therefore the improvement in compliance was not only maintained but in fact the compliance increased even further during subsequent cycles. Hence we have achieved a large improvement in the quality of assessment of bone quality in breast cancer patients. Moreover, we have demonstrated the importance of the dissemination of information and education within a multidisciplinary setting.
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