Publication Abstract

Authors: Lott JP, Narayan D, Soulos PR, Aminawung J, Gross CP

Title: Delay of Surgery for Melanoma Among Medicare Beneficiaries.

Journal: JAMA Dermatol 151(7):731-41

Date: 2015 Jul

Abstract: IMPORTANCE: Timely delivery of surgery for cancer affects health care quality and outcomes. However, population-based studies characterizing the delay of surgery for melanoma in the United States have not been performed. OBJECTIVE: To assess the delay of surgery for melanoma by tumor-, patient-, and physician-level characteristics. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed as having melanoma from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2009, using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare database. We included all patients undergoing surgical excision of melanoma diagnosed by means of results of skin biopsy. EXPOSURES: Anatomic location and stage of the tumor, patient sociodemographic characteristics, prior melanoma, Elixhauser comorbidities, and the specialties of the physicians who performed the biopsy and surgery. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Surgical delay, measured as the time from the biopsy to surgical excision. We estimated risk-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and marginal probabilities of delay with 95% CIs for each covariate using mixed-effects logistic regression. RESULTS: Our cohort consisted of 32 501 cases of melanoma. Most of the patients were white (95.4%), male (63.1%), married (47.9%), and 75 years or older (60.8%) and did not have a prior melanoma (93.7%). Melanomas were most frequently located on the head and neck (40.5%) and staged as in situ disease (48.2%). More than three-quarters of cases (25 269 [77.7%]) underwent excision within 1.5 months of biopsy. Among those treated after 1.5 months (7232 [22.3%]), 2620 (8.1% of all cases) experienced a delay of longer than 3 months. The incidence of a risk-adjusted surgical delay longer than 1.5 months was significantly increased among patients 85 years or older compared with those younger than 65 years (odds ratio [OR], 1.28 [95% CI, 1.05-1.55]; P = .02), those with a prior melanoma (OR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.08-1.34]; P = .001), and those with an increased comorbidity burden (OR, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.09-1.27]; P < .001). Melanomas that underwent biopsy and excision by dermatologists had the lowest likelihood of delay (probability, 16% [95% CI, 14%-18%]). The highest likelihood of delay (probability, 31% [95% CI, 24%-37%]) occurred when the biopsy was performed by a nondermatologist and excised by a primary care physician. Similar findings were observed for a delay longer than 3 months. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Approximately 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries experience a delay of surgery for melanoma that is longer than 1.5 months. Those patients undergoing biopsy and surgery by dermatologists have the lowest risk for delay, highlighting potential opportunities for improved access to and coordination of dermatologic care.