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Radiol Med. 1999 Oct;98(4):264-7.

[Follow-up chest radiography in surgical breast cancer patients].

[Article in Italian]

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  • 1Istituto di Scienze Radiologiche, Universit√† degli Studi, Federico II, Napoli.



We investigated to what extent the diagnostic findings of chest radiography can improve prognosis and treatment in surgical breast cancer patients. We also reviewed the literature and our personal findings to choose the optimal follow-up frequency to meet therapeutical and management needs, including radiation protection.


We retrospectively reviewed 1556 chest radiographs of 195 surgical patients with M0 breast cancer performed January 1990 to December 1996. Patient's history and clinical data were accurately reviewed to investigate the relation between protocol type and results. The maximalist or intensive protocol featured 3 chest radiographs a year, even in the absence of any specific signs; the results were reviewed in terms of early diagnosis and prolongation of life.


Only 13% of the examinations had been performed following a specific clinical indication, while 87% had been performed for a generic referral. Recurrences were found in 0.6% only of the latter examinations, which means that radiography provided no diagnostic improvement or important change in treatment in as much as 99.4% of cases. In 1997 radiographic follow-up was made triannual instead of biannual as it used to be.


In the absence of specific clinical indications, chest radiography can be performed in the two projections once a year. More aggressive protocols requiring more frequent examinations are not justified, as the patient's life expectancy is not increased. Yearly examinations permit to meet economic and management needs, with a better use of time, staff and materials. Moreover, the clinical-diagnostic yield is not affected by the skipping of unselected examinations. Finally, another pro is the technical thoroughness of the examination with orthogonal projections and the possibility to use ionizing radiations, which improves the management of clinical risks. Maximum radiologist-oncologist cooperation in clinical practice can improve both diagnostic efficiency and treatment efficacy, by reducing the population dose and rationalizing the use of human, instrumental, structural and financial resources.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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