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J Am Coll Surg. 2003 Jan;196(1):38-43.

Concordance with breast cancer pathology reporting practice guidelines.

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Department of Surgical Oncology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.



Accurate pathology reporting is important for treatment of breast cancer. The College of American Pathologists (CAP) distributed guidelines for reporting cancer specimens in 1998. The aim of this study was to determine community-wide concordance with CAP breast cancer reporting guidelines.


Pathology reporting of stage I and II breast cancers was examined for adherence to CAP guidelines. Pathology reports were reviewed from 100 consecutive cases of invasive breast cancers referred to Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1998 to 1999 from community hospitals after excisional breast biopsy and 20 consecutive cases with excisional biopsy at RPCI. Adherence to CAP guidelines for clinically relevant items was determined from the original pathology report in each case.


One hundred one cases met the inclusion criteria. Most reports did not include at least one of the guideline required elements. Surgical margins were inked in only 77%, and the margins oriented in only 25% of patients. Many specimens were not oriented by the surgeon. Grade was reported in most cases, but the Bloom Scarf Richardson grade was reported in only 6%. The presence or absence of lymphovascular invasion, and of coexisting in situ disease, was reported in 57% and 71%, respectively. The extent and type of in situ disease was reported in 47% and 49%, respectively.


Breast cancer pathology reporting varies widely. Key elements that affect treatment are often omitted. These include gross description and size, orientation and involvement of surgical margins, and description of histologic features, including Bloom Scarf Richardson reporting of grade and the extent of an in situ component. Passive distribution of CAP practice guidelines might be insufficient to accomplish community-wide quality improvement in breast pathology reporting.

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