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Radiother Oncol. 2010 Oct;97(1):92-4. doi: 10.1016/j.radonc.2010.02.021. Epub 2010 Mar 11.

Mammary fat necrosis following radiotherapy in the conservative management of localized breast cancer: does it matter?

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, USA. mtrombet@wpahs.org



Fat necrosis is a well-described and relatively common complication arising from post-lumpectomy irradiation of the breast, most commonly breast brachytherapy. We wish to assess the clinical significance of fat necrosis resulting from post-lumpectomy breast irradiation.


We reviewed the literature to determine the overall incidence and significance of fat necrosis to determine whether or not fat necrosis poses a significant clinical problem.


Fat necrosis occurs in up to one-quarter of patients following post-lumpectomy breast irradiation. Only rarely is invasive intervention required however, it does significantly degrade the quality of all modalities of breast imaging.


Fat necrosis is a common complication of radiotherapy which rarely requires therapeutic intervention. However, post-therapeutic clinical imaging such as mammography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging are affected which may result in additional diagnostic procedures up to and including biopsy.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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