Women living in Orange County are about 270 percent more likely to get breast reconstruction after a mastectomy then the state average. Men in Tracy are nearly 480 percent more likely to be treated with internal radiation for prostate cancer. The California Healthcare Foundation's Maribeth Shannon says both are part of a phenomenon known as "variation." The Foundation sponsored a study to shed light on the issue.
"Both (by) letting patients know that they have choices and making sure that the physicians in an area know that they may be outliers in recommending a particular course of treatment," Shannon says. "That's all important. That transparency really helps engage both doctors and their patients in making the right decision."
Shannon says doctors may continue using a procedure they learned in residency or that had worked for patients in the past. She says the doctors may not even realize they're part of a cluster.