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Surg Clin North Am. 2003 Aug;83(4):803-19.

Staging system for breast cancer: revisions for the 6th edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Oncology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Box 106, Houston, TX 77030-4009, USA.


Since its inception, the AJCC staging system for breast cancer has been in an almost constant state of evolution, striving with each revision to reflect the most up-to-date clinical research as well as the widespread consensus among physicians about appropriate diagnostic and treatment standards. To date, these revisions have essentially represented a "fine-tuning" of the initial judgment that tumor size, lymph node status, and presence of distant metastases are the most significant prognostic factors for breast cancer. With the problems of standardization and reproducibility being resolved, it is likely that histologic grade will join this group of independent markers and be incorporated into the AJCC staging system in the near future. Over the last 15 years. considerable attention has been focused on the discovery of new markers visualized with immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR that may be validated as independent prognostic indicators (reviewed by Mirza et al). To date, the usefulness of many of these markers has been limited by lack of standardization in measurement techniques, but several show great promise for the future. By increasing the number of prognostic markers that can give independent information about patient outcome, physicians will be better able to determine optimal treatment approaches for individual patients.

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