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According to an article recently published in the Archives of Surgery, infection at the surgical site among women who undergo surgery for breast cancer significantly increases medical costs as well as pain, anxiety, time requirements, chances for potential complications, and demands on medical staff and facilities.

The type of surgery for breast cancer is determined by extent of spread of cancer. As the extent of spread indicates, surgery may involve removal of the cancer or removal of the breast and surrounding tissue and nearby lymph nodes. Regardless of surgery type, infection at the site of surgery is always a potential complication. Many such infections, however, could likely be prevented with strict approaches to infection-control.

In addition to coping with cancer and its treatment, medical costs are a significant issue for patients. Methods to reduce costs and maintain optimal treatment outcomes are important considerations. Researchers continue to evaluate ways to reduce medical costs without compromising healthcare quality.

Researchers from the United States recently conducted a study to evaluate the impact that infection has on medical cost for breast cancer patients undergoing surgery. This study included 949 women who had surgery for breast cancer between 1999 and 2002.

  • Surgical site infection occurred in 50 women.
  • Infection occurred most commonly among women who underwent a mastectomy with immediate implant reconstruction and least commonly among women who underwent breast-conserving therapy.
  • The costs associated with an infection were more $4,000.
  • These costs only account for hospital-associated expenses and do not include such things as physician, outpatient antibiotic use, or home healthcare costs.
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The researchers concluded: “Surgical site infection after breast cancer surgical procedures was more common than expected for clean surgery and more common than SSI [surgical site infection] after non–cancer-related breast surgical procedures. Knowledge of the attributable costs of SSI in this patient population can be used to justify infection control interventions to reduce the risk of infection.”

Patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer may wish to speak with their healthcare provider regarding measures to prevent infection.

Reference: Olsen M, Chu-Ongaskul S, Brandt K, et al. Hospital-associated costs due to surgical site infection after breast surgery. Archives of Internal Surgery. 2007. 2008;143:53-60.

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