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Ann Surg Oncol. 2004 Oct;11(10):915-20. Epub 2004 Sep 20.

Factors associated with residual breast cancer after re-excision for close or positive margins.

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Weill Cornell Breast Center, 425 East 61st Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10021, USA.



Successful breast conservation surgery (BCS) requires complete tumor excision. Margin status of the initial specimen determines the need for additional surgery. We explored factors associated with residual cancer (RC) upon follow-up surgery in patients with close, positive, or undetermined margins following BCS.


A retrospective analysis of 276 patients with initial close, positive, or undetermined margins who underwent re-excision (RE) or mastectomy was conducted. All initial excisions were intended as definitive procedures. Chi-square analysis was used to identify factors that may predict RC.


Of 276 patients, 87 had close, 168 had positive, and 21 had undetermined margins on initial excision. Of this group, 63% (175/276) had RC upon RE or mastectomy. Of positive-margin patients, 68% had RC, compared with 53% of close-margin and 67% of undetermined-margin patients (P = .006). Tumors >/=2 cm were more often associated with RC than smaller tumors (70.8% vs. 56.5%; P = .07). This association was strongest in positive-margin patients (P = .04). High tumor grade was associated with RC in all groups. RC linearly increased with the number of involved margins (P = .02). Specimen inking with multiple colors was associated with decreased risk of RC (P = .004).


Over half of patients with involved or undetermined margins had RC upon RE or mastectomy. Positive and undetermined margins were more often associated with RC than close margins. Larger tumor size was associated with RC in patients with positive. Increasing tumor grade suggests a greater chance of detecting RC in all groups. Multiple involved margins led to a greater risk of RC.

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