It is still an open debate whether tumor emboli in dermal lymphatics without inflammatory signs represent a similar bad prognosis like inflammatory breast cancer. We evaluated the prognostic role of dermal lymphatic invasion (DLI) in breast cancer with (DLI + ID) or without (DLI w/o ID) inflammatory disease (ID). From August 1988 to January 2000, 42 patients with DLI were irradiated. Twenty-five were classified as pT4, 13 out of them as pT4d (inflammatory disease); the 17 remaining patients had 1 T1c, 12 T2 and 4 T3 cancers with DLI. Axillary dissection revealed node-positive disease in 39/41 patients (median, 9 positive nodes). Thirty-eight out of 42 patients received adjuvant systemic treatment(s). After a mean follow-up of 33 months, 22/42 patients (52%) are disease-free. The actuarial 3-year disease-free survival is 50% (DLI w/o ID, 61%; DLI + ID, 31%; p < 0.03); the corresponding overall survival was 69% (DLI w/o ID, 87%; DLI + ID, 37%; p = 0.005). The presence or absence of ID was the only significant parameter for all endpoints in multivariate analyses. Dissemination occurred in 19 (45%), local relapse in 7 (n = 17%) and regional failure in 4 (10%). Nine patients (21%) had contralateral breast cancer/relapse. Despite the same histopathologic presentation, DLI w/o ID offered a significantly better disease-free survival and overall survival than ID. The finding of dermal lymphatic tumor invasion predicts a high probability for node-positive disease.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.