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Ann Surg Oncol. 2009 Mar;16(3):697-702. doi: 10.1245/s10434-008-0268-5. Epub 2009 Jan 9.

Preoperative chemotherapy decreases the need for re-excision of breast cancers between 2 and 4 cm diameter.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Yale Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.



It is accepted that preoperative chemotherapy can result in increased breast preservation for breast cancers greater than 4 cm. The benefits of preoperative chemotherapy are less clear, however, for patients who present with smaller tumors and are already candidates for breast-preserving surgery. The goal of this study is to assess the effect of preoperative chemotherapy on breast cancers between 2 and 4 cm diameter.


A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients diagnosed with new breast cancer at the Yale-New Haven Breast Center for the years 2002-2007. Patients were included in the study if their breast cancer was between 2 and 4 cm and their initial surgical treatment had been completed. Patients with distant metastases were excluded.


There were 156 new cancers that met study requirements. Forty-seven patients underwent preoperative chemotherapy, and 109 patients had their surgery first, usually followed by chemotherapy. Initial surgery was lumpectomy for 31 out of 47 patients (66%) in the preoperative chemotherapy group compared with 62 out of 109 patients (57%) in the surgery group. For patients with lumpectomies, 2 out of 31 patients (6%) in the preoperative group had positive margins and required re-excision compared with 20 out of 62 patients (37%) in the surgery-first group (P<0.01).


We conclude that, for tumors between 2 and 4 cm, preoperative chemotherapy is associated with a significantly decreased rate of re-excision following lumpectomy. This not only results in fewer mastectomies, but also avoids the morbidity and inferior cosmetic results associated with a re-excision lumpectomy.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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