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Histopathology. 2010 Apr;56(5):573-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2559.2010.03518.x.

Comparison of margin assessment by radial and shave sections in wide local excision specimens for invasive carcinoma of the breast.

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Department of Histopathology, Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham, UK.



Standard margin assessment of breast carcinoma surgical specimens uses radial sections perpendicular to the margin. Shave sections assess a larger surface area of margin than radial sections. The aim was to assess the value of additional shave sections of the margin.


Both types of section were used to assess 471 wide local excision specimens for invasive carcinoma. One hundred and seventy-nine specimens had positive margins: only radial margins were involved (tumour within 5 mm of margin) in 76, only shave margins in 45, and both shave and radial margins in 58. Residual carcinoma was found in re-excision specimens (immediate or later) in 43% when the closest distance to the radial margin was 0-1 mm, 25% for 2-4 mm, 18% for 5-9 mm and 13% for >9 mm. Residual carcinoma was found in 44% of specimens if any shave section was positive and in 9% if all shaves were negative. Residual carcinoma was found in 32% if either radial or shave sections were positive and in 4% if neither was positive.


The combination of radial and shave sections appears to be good at separating patients into two groups with high and low risk of residual carcinoma.

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