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Ulster Med J. 2009 May;78(2):105-12.

Non-epithelial malignancies and metastatic tumours of the breast.

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Departments of Surgery, Antrim Area Hospital, 45 Bush Road, Antrim BT41 2RL, Northern Ireland.



Non-epithelial breast malignancies include primary lymphomas, sarcomas, haematological malignancies, melanomas as well as secondary metastases to the breast. They account for less than 1% of all breast tumours. The demographics and clinical features are similar to epithelial breast cancers but the prognosis and management options are often very different. Most reported series are small with limited follow-up. The main aim of this study was to review our experience for these malignancies and to compare this with the published literature.


A 14-year retrospective review of all breast resection specimens was completed in the Antrim Area Hospital Cancer Unit. Clinical records of patients diagnosed with non-epithelial breast malignancies were then reviewed for data regarding patient demographics, clinical presentation, pre-operative investigations, operative findings and outcome. Pathology reports were examined carefully for tumour type, location and for evidence of lymphovascular spread. This data was compared with the available literature.


Nineteen (F = 16) patients were found to have non-epithelial breast malignancies between April 1994 and August 2007. Mean age was 61.6 years (range 25-86). 17 patients (89.5%) presented with a palpable lump, mastalgia or skin change, while 2 (10.5%) patients' tumours were detected through screening. The histological types of non-epithelial malignancies were as follows: lymphoma (n = 8; M = 1 and F = 7, mean age: 68.5 range 52-86), sarcoma (n = 5; M = 1 and F = 4, mean age 56.4 range 29-69), malignant melanoma (n = 3; M = 1 and F = 2, mean age 54.3 range 25-70), multiple myeloma (n = 1; F, 71), metastatic renal cell carcinoma (n = 1; F, 63) and metastatic carcinoid tumour (n = 1; F, 52). The mean follow-up was 1541 days (32-4589 days). Nine patients were alive at the end of follow-up. Only 1 of 11 deaths was not directly related to the malignancy. The average time from surgery to death was 798.5 days (range 32-3248 days).


Non-epithelial breast malignancies are rare cancers with significant mortality rates. Correct diagnosis and avoidance of inappropriate therapies requires a comprehensive triple assessment and a multidisciplinary management approach.


Breast; lymphoma; melanoma; myeloma; neoplasm; renal; sarcoma

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