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J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Nov;209(5):608-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2009.07.026. Epub 2009 Sep 11.

Attaining negative margins in breast-conservation operations: is there a consensus among breast surgeons?

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University of California San Diego, Moores Cancer Center, 3855 Health Sciences Dr #0987, La Jolla, CA 92093-0987, USA.



The purpose of this survey was to ascertain the most common surgical practices for attaining negative (tumor-free) surgical margins in patients desiring breast-conservation treatment for breast cancer to see if a consensus exists for optimal treatment of patients.


We sent a survey to 1,000 surgeons interested in the treatment of breast cancer. Three hundred eighty-one surgeons responded to this survey and 351 were used for the analysis (response rate of 38%).


Answers showed a large variety in clinical practices among breast surgeons across the country. There was little intraoperative margin analysis; only 48% of surgeons examine the margins grossly with a pathologist and even fewer used frozen sections or imprint cytology. Decisions to reexcise specific margins varied greatly. For example, 57% of surgeons would never reexcise for a positive deep margin, but 53% would always reexcise for a positive anterior margin. Most importantly, there was a large range in answers about acceptable margins with ductal carcinoma in situ and invasive carcinoma. Fifteen percent of surgeons would accept any negative margin, 28% would accept a 1-mm negative margin, 50% would accept a 2-mm negative margin, 12% would accept a 5-mm negative margin, and 3% would accept a 10-mm negative margin.


Results of this survey highlight the wide variety of practice patterns in the US for handling surgical margins in breast-conservation treatment. This issue remains controversial, with no prevailing standard of care. Consequently, additional study is needed in the modern era of multimodality treatment to examine the minimal amount of surgical treatment necessary, in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation, to attain adequate local control rates in breast-conservation treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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