New figures on quality of care for breast cancer

30 August 2023

Anyone facing breast cancer, is in good hands in Flemish hospitals, as shown by the most recent figures of the Vlaams Instituut voor Kwaliteit van Zorg (Flemish Institute for Quality of Care (VIKZ)), published on It concerns patients diagnosed between 2014 and 2018. Breast cancer experts at UZ Leuven support transparancy but have important reservations about the figures and urge caution in conclusions and comparisons.

Arts met cijfers, illustratie voor meting van zorgkwaliteit

Prof. dr. Hans Wildiers, medical oncologist: "There are many factors, independent of quality of care, that affect survival figures of breast cancer patients. This makes it difficult to draw statistically reliable conclusions and comparisons between centres." (Beeld: © Shutterstock)

Good breast cancer care in Flanders 

The figures are positive news for the 10,000 patients in our country that are diagnosed with breast cancer every year: the quality of care is good and the survival rates 5 years after diagnosis are high. 

Prof. dr. Hans Wildiers, medical oncologist and chairman of the Leuven multidisciplinary breast centre: “With its more than 600 new patients a year, UZ Leuven is the largest treatment centre for breast cancer in Flanders. We're also one of the few centres that are able to present better 5 year' survival rate figures than the average of all Flemish hospitals. We're proud to have these nice results, even though UZ Leuven is a third line centre and often sees referred patients with more complex types of breast cancer, where the survical rate is theoretically smaller.”

Side notes on survival rates 

However, prof. dr. Wildiers stresses, partly on behalf of the committee for breast cancer experts that adviced the VIKZ, that there a number of important side notes to be made with the new data. “It is important to approach these results carefully, especially as far as survival rates goes, because these have quite a number of limitations. In spite of corrections for a number of personal and tumour characteristics, there are other factors involved, independent of quality of care, that affect a patient's chances of survival. This makes it difficult to draw statistically reliable conclusions and comparisons between centres.”

E.g. demographic differences between patient populations have big impact on survival rates. In addition, the majority of all new diagnoses are local non-metastatic breast cancers, with a high 5 year survival rate, and part of the deaths are not directly linked to breast cancer.  

Breast cancer clinics recognition  

Belgian legislation has determined the conditions for the recogntion of breast clinics. A recognised coordinating breast clinic has to provide follow-up for at least 125 new breast cancer patients and comply with specific standards for infrastructure, multidisciplinary framework and quality control.   

Prof. dr. Wildiers: “The breast cancer experts involved in this VIKZ report stress the importance of recognising breast centres and respecting the criteria of volume as determined by the government.”

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Last edit: 30 August 2023