Dr. Monica Morrow of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, author of an editorial published along with the study results, noted that the new research underscores the challenge of agreeing to surgical quality guidelines for breast cancer patients.
There is no consensus among surgeons and radiation oncologists as to what constitutes an optimal negative margin width, because the question has not been addressed in prospective randomized trials, Morrow wrote. While the observational study design is valuable for illuminating the nature of potential quality gaps, it cannot be used to inform the validity of candidate quality measures.
Still, McCahill suggested that patients who are need lumpectomies discuss their follow-up surgery rate to understand the recovery expectations and whether it may be likely that chemotherapy or radiation may be delayed.
"It would be very worthwhile for a patient to have a discussion with her doctor to understand whether the surgeon has a high rate of operations to know what to expect with the treatment," Harris said.