"If we're going to try to improve compliance with chemotherapy guidelines, we need to be aware why patients are not getting it. Surgical complications could be part of that picture," says Hendren, noting that it will be the topic of her next study.
Given that the "why" is still up in the air, the take-away for providers isn't a simple "improve compliance." They need to do that, she says, but they also need to assess more carefully the underlying reasons why some patients aren't getting chemotherapy
It's about getting chemotherapy to more patients and implementing programs to improve surgical safety (leading to fewer complications), she said in an interview.
"In Michigan we have a surgical quality improvement program across the state, where hospitals have banded together—with money from the hospitals and from the health insurance industry—to decrease complication rates from surgery by disseminating the practices of hospitals with good results," she explains. "These types of initiatives are so important, and this study shows that they might have much more far-reaching effects than simply decreasing costs or length of stay. They might have longer-term effects on cancer survival."