American College Of Surgeons survey reveals low awareness about the importance of breast care center accreditation

According to new research from the American College of Surgeons (ACoS), two-thirds of women (66 percent) did not know about accreditation of breast care centers, what it means, and why it is important. However, after providing women who were surveyed with an overview of the meaning of accreditation, they overwhelmingly (92 percent) find it to be an important aspect in choosing a breast cancer treatment facility, a recent article reported.

To be "accredited," breast care centers must follow a comprehensive and consistent set of standards for treatment. They must also support patients' social and emotional needs. These centers are surveyed by the National
Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), an interdisciplinary consortium of leading patient care groups and professional medical societies involved in breast care. The NAPBC is administered by the ACoS and is the latest quality improvement program it offers. There are now more than 84 centers across the country already accredited through this program.

"What women don't realize is where they choose to seek treatment can impact the care they receive and, ultimately, the results they achieve," said David Winchester, MD, FACS, medical director for the College's cancer programs. "It's important for the approximately 250,000 women diagnosed in the U.S. with invasive and non-invasive breast cancer each year to know about the advanced treatment and guidance provided by accredited centers, such as expert staff and support that continues even during follow-up care."

The study, conducted by KRC Research on behalf of ACoS, found that even a majority of women (59 percent) who had personal experience with breast cancer - whether themselves or through a close friend or family member – admitted they were not aware or sure if breast cancer treatment centers can be accredited.

Though awareness was low across the board, additional survey results found younger women were significantly less knowledgeable than their older counterparts; 74 percent of women under the age of 45 were not aware or sure if breast cancer treatment centers can be accredited compared with 58 percent of women ages 45 and older.

Centers that seek accreditation must adhere to rigorous requirements including the following:

  • All physicians are board certified or are in the process of getting board certified.
  • Nurses have specialized knowledge and training in breast cancer and diseases.
  • Patients are treated by a multidisciplinary team of medical experts and specialists.
  • Patients and their families receive continued support during and after treatment to help them cope with the disease.
  • The center continuously collects breast cancer data on indicators involved in breast cancer.
  • The center provides information about clinical trials and new treatment options.
  • Patients have access to a "patient navigator," a person who serves as their primary contact and guide all through her treatment and follow-up care.

Additional findings from the survey showed women viewed board certification of physicians to be the most important requirement when it comes to accreditation. Secondly, the specialized knowledge and training of nurses was another appealing requirement. Ninety-six percent said nurses having specialized knowledge and training in breast cancer and other breast diseases was an important requirement.

Not surprising was the importance women (almost 95 percent) placed on the continuous research and data collection done when it comes to breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Despite these aspects being important to women in regards to breast cancer, the survey revealed a general lack of knowledge about the things they deemed most important.

This survey was conducted by KRC Research on behalf of the American
College of Surgeons (ACS) regarding perceptions of accreditation of breast
cancer treatment centers. The national survey was conducted via telephone
among a random sample of 500 adult women, age 18 and older. The estimated
margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points. The survey was conducted September 11-14, 2009.

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