Background: Patients receiving breast conservation therapy have a lifelong risk of local recurrence. To minimize this risk, surgeons have explored various approaches to examining the surgical margins of the resection specimen. If tumor cells are found at the margin, there is a high probability that residual tumor remains in the surgical cavity. This review examines published reports about standard and innovative approaches to assessing surgical margins, the clinical significance of margin size, and risk factors for positive margins.
Methods: Published literature abstracted in Medline was reviewed using the Gateway site from the National Library of Medicine.
Conclusions: It is still not clear whether obtaining a radical margin will decrease the rate of local recurrence after breast conserving surgery. What is clear is that it is absolutely unacceptable to have tumor cells directly at the cut edge of the excised specimen, regardless of the type of post-surgical adjuvant therapy.