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Radiographics. 2014 Mar-Apr;34(2):330-42. doi: 10.1148/rg.342135071.

Radiologist's role in breast cancer staging: providing key information for clinicians.

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From the Departments of Radiology (S.C.L., P.A.J., S.C.J., M.W.Y.) and Medicine (D.T.), Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1441 Eastlake Ave, 2nd Floor #2315, Los Angeles, CA 90089. Recipient of a Certificate of Merit award for an education exhibit at the 2012 RSNA Annual Meeting.


Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer, and the 5-year survival rate is largely dependent on disease stage. The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system for breast cancer (7th edition) provides a tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) classification scheme for breast cancer that is important for determining prognosis and treatment. Ascertaining the correct stage of breast cancer can be challenging, and the importance of the radiologist's role has increased over the years. The radiologist should understand how breast cancer stage is assigned and should be familiar with the AJCC's TNM classification scheme. The authors review the AJCC's TNM staging system for breast cancer with emphasis on clinical and preoperative staging, the different imaging modalities used in staging, and the key information that should be conveyed to clinicians. Radiologic information that may alter stage, prognosis, or treatment includes tumor size; number of tumor lesions; total span of disease; regional nodal status (axillary levels I-III, internal mammary, supraclavicular); locoregional invasion (involvement of the pectoralis muscle, skin, nipple, or chest wall); and distant metastases to bone, lung, brain, and liver, among other anatomic structures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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