Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Breast. 2013 Oct;22(5):718-22. doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2012.12.009. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Size does matter: High volume breast surgeons accept smaller excision margins for wide local excision--a national survey of the surgical management of wide local excision margins in UK breast cancer patients.

Author information

  • 1Department of Breast Surgery, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 4LP, United Kingdom. Electronic address:



Optimal margins for wide local excision (WLE) have not been clearly established. Larger margins lead to lower recurrence rates but at the expense of cosmetic appearance. NICE guidelines recommend a 2 mm margin for ductal carcinoma in-situ (DCIS), whilst the British Association of Surgical Oncology (BASO) recommend units develop local guidelines. There are presently no specific guidelines for invasive cancer. We surveyed members of the Association of Breast Surgeons (ABS) in order to establish current practice nationally. We hypothesised that larger units may accept narrower excision margins to the benefit of better cosmesis.


A postal questionnaire was sent to all ABS members in October 2010. This consisted of questions about the current practice of the surgeon and their unit. 481 questionnaires were posted in total, all questionnaires returned by April 2011 were analysed.


Questionnaire response rate was 60% (281). Surgeons operating on over 50 cancers per year accepted smaller margins than those operating on less than 50 (p < 0.02). Acceptable adequate anterior and radial margins ranged from 0 to 10 mm for DCIS and 0 to 5 mm for invasive cancer. A variety of approaches to re-excising anterior margins were reported.


This survey suggests that substantial variations exist in current practice with regard to the approach to WLE. Operator workload appears to influence what is deemed to be an acceptable margin. There is a need for standardised national and international guidelines.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Breast cancer; DCIS; Ductal carcinoma in situ; Margin; Questionnaire; Wide local excision

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk