Anesthetic choices and breast cancer recurrence: A retrospective cohort study of risk factors

Kristen Starnes-Ott, The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston


Background: The impact of anesthetic techniques for breast cancer surgery traditionally has been centered on the incidence of acute pain syndromes and complications immediately after surgery. Evaluating anesthesia management beyond short-term effects is an emerging science. Several animal studies have concluded that regional anesthesia independently reduces cancer recurrence and metastasis. A small number of retrospective clinical studies indicate that reductions in cancer recurrence are attributable to anesthesia technique; however, individual risk factors need to be taken into consideration. Purpose: The aims were to: 1) investigate differences in patient, disease and treatment factors between women who received surgical treatment for breast cancer with paravertebral regional and general anesthesia compared to women who received general anesthesia alone; 2) explore patient, disease and treatment factors associated with recurrence of breast cancer; and 3) test the association between type of anesthesia and breast cancer recurrence and survival over 22–46 months following surgery. Methods: This retrospective cohort study included 358 patients with stage 0-III disease who received a partial or total mastectomy without axillary node dissection between October 2006 and October 2008 at a large academic cancer center. Follow-up ended in August 2010 with a median follow-up time of 28.8 months. Results: The patient demographics were equally represented across anesthesia groups. Mean BMI (kg/m2) was greater for the patients who received general anesthesia (GA) alone (29±6.8) compared to those that received paravertebral regional block (PVB) with GA (28±5.1), p=0.001. The PVB with GA group had more advanced stages of disease (p=0.01) and longer surgeries (p=0.01) than the GA only group. Breast cancer recurrence was detected in only 1.7% of the study population. The mean age was 51±18 in those who had a recurrence compared to 58±11 in the non-recurrent group (p=0.06). Overall, no association between anesthesia type and recurrence was found (p=0.53), with an unadjusted estimated hazard ratio of 1.84 (95% CI 0.34–10.08). Conclusions: In contrast to previous retrospective studies in cancer patients receiving surgical and anesthesia treatment, this study was unable to detect a difference in relating type of anesthesia with decreased breast cancer recurrence. Nonetheless, a significant association between BMI and type of anesthesia was observed and should be taken into account in future studies. Because the overall rate of recurrence was very small in this population, a larger study would be needed to detect any differences in rates of recurrence attributable to type of anesthesia.

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Recommended Citation

Starnes-Ott, Kristen, "Anesthetic choices and breast cancer recurrence: A retrospective cohort study of risk factors" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3459698.