Purpose: Most recurrences in the breast after conservative surgery and whole-breast irradiation have been reported to occur within the same quadrant as the initial primary tumor. We analyzed the long-term risk of recurrence by area of the breast after whole-breast irradiation.
Materials and methods: In all, 1,990 women with Stage 0-II breast cancer were treated with conservative surgery and whole-breast irradiation from 1970-1998. Stage was ductal carcinoma in situ in 237, T1 in 1273, and T2 in 480 patients. Of 120 local recurrences, 71 were classified as true local (confined to the original quadrant) and 49 as elsewhere (involving outside the original quadrant). Kaplan-Meier methodology was used to calculate 5-year, 10-year, and 15-year rates of recurrence (95% confidence intervals in parentheses). The median follow-up is 80 months.
Results: There was no apparent difference in the 15-year rate of true local vs. elsewhere recurrence, but the time to recurrence was different. The rate of true local recurrence was 2%, 5%, and 7% (5-9%) at 5, 10, and 15 years, respectively. The recurrences elsewhere in the breast were rare at 5 (1%) and 10 (2%) years, but increased to 6 (3-9%) at 15 years. This 15-year rate of elsewhere recurrence was half the rate of contralateral breast cancers of 13% (10-16%).
Conclusions: Recurrence elsewhere in the breast is rare for the first 10 years, but by 15 years is nearly equal to true local recurrence even after whole-breast irradiation. The 15-year rate of elsewhere recurrence was half the rate of contralateral breast cancers. This may indicate a therapeutic effect of whole-breast radiation for other areas of the breast. Very long follow-up will be needed for partial breast irradiation with or without tamoxifen to show that the risk of elsewhere recurrence is not significantly different than after whole-breast irradiation.