Women are losing out on the best treatment for breast cancer because leading centres have not conducted audits ensuring compliance with national guidelines, a survey has found.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence issued new guidance for breast cancer treatment in 2006.
It said women taking the drug tamoxifen for hormone-sensitive breast cancer should be switched to an aromatase inhibitor after two to three years.
A majority of the 100 specialists surveyed believed their patients were receiving the best recommended treatment. But just 21 said their hospital had conducted an audit on breast cancer care while five did not know if one had been carried out.
Anthony Skene, consultant surgeon at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who took part in the research, said: "It is worrying that only a fifth of high-volume hospitals have undertaken an audit."
The survey also found that more than 20% of hospitals had not briefed all staff members managing the follow-up treatment of post-menopausal women with breast cancer about treatment guidelines. Twelve percent had no guidelines of their own at all.
Each year, 46,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK and an estimated 12,370 patients die.
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