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Ann Surg Oncol. 1999 Apr-May;6(3):249-54.

Beyond palliative mastectomy in inflammatory breast cancer--a reassessment of margin status.

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Department of General Surgery, Keesler Medical Center, Keesler AFB, Mississippi 39534, USA.



Inflammatory breast cancer is a locally advanced tumor with an aggressive local and systemic course. Treatment of this disease has been evolving over the last several decades. The aim of this study was to assess whether current therapies, both surgical and chemotherapeutic, are providing better local control (LC) and overall survival (OS). We also attempted to identify clinical and pathologic factors that may be associated with improved OS, disease-free survival (DFS), and LC.


A 25-year retrospective review performed at the City of Hope National Medical Center identified 90 patients with the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer.


Of the 90 patients identified with inflammatory breast cancer, 33 received neoadjuvant therapy (NEO) consisting of chemotherapy followed by surgery with radiation (n = 26) and without radiation (n = 7). Fifty-seven patients received other therapies (nonNEO). Treatments received by the nonNEO group consisted of chemotherapy, radiation, mastectomy, adrenalectomy, and oophorectomy, alone or in combination. The median follow-up was 28.9 months for the NEO group and 17.6 months for the nonNEO group. Borderline significant differences in the OS distributions between the two groups were found (P = .10), with 3- and 5-year OS for the NEO group of 40.0% and 29.9% and for the nonNEO group of 24.7% and 16.5%, respectively. DFS and LC were comparable in the two groups. Lower stage was associated with an improved OS (P < .05). The 5-year OS for stage IIIB was 30.9%, compared to 7.8% for stage IV. In those patients with stage III disease who were treated with mastectomy and rendered free of disease, margin status was identified by univariate analysis to be a prognostic indicator for OS (P < .05). The 3-year OS, DFS, and LC for patients with negative margins were 47.4%, 37.5%, and 60.3%, respectively, compared to 0%, 16.7%, and 31.3% in patients with positive margins.


This study suggests that in patients with inflammatory breast cancer and nonmetastatic disease, an aggressive surgical approach may be justified with the goal of a negative surgical margin. Achievement of this local control is associated with a better overall outcome for this subset of patients. The ability to obtain negative margins may further identify a group of patients with a less aggressive tumor biology that may be more responsive to other modalities of therapy.

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