Background: Regardless of their age, women who choose to undergo postmastectomy reconstruction report improved quality of life as a result. However, actual use of reconstruction decreases with increasing age. Whereas this may reflect patient preference and clinical factors, it may also represent age-based disparity. Methods: Women aged 65 years or older who underwent mastectomy for DCIS/stage I/II breast cancer (2000-2005) were identified in the SEER-Medicare database. Overall and institutional rates of reconstruction were calculated. Characteristics of hospitals with higher and lower rates of reconstruction were compared. Pseudo-RA2 statistics utilizing a patient-level logistic regression model estimated the relative contribution of institution and patient characteristics. Results: A total of 19,234 patients at 716 institutions were examined. Overall, 6 % of elderly patients received reconstruction after mastectomy. Institutional rates ranged from zero to >40 %. Whereas 53 % of institutions performed no reconstruction on elderly patients, 5.6 % performed reconstructions on more than 20 %. Although patient characteristics (%ΔRA2 = 70 %), and especially age (%ΔRA2 = 34 %), were the primary determinants of reconstruction, institutional characteristics also explained some of the variation (%ΔRA2 = 16 %). This suggests that in addition to appropriate factors, including clinical characteristics and patient preferences, the use of reconstruction among older women also is influenced by the institution at which they receive care. Conclusions: Variation in the likelihood of reconstruction by institution and the association with structural characteristics suggests unequal access to this critical component of breast cancer care. Increased awareness of a potential age disparity is an important first step to improve access for elderly women who are candidates and desire reconstruction.
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