Video-assisted management of malignant pleural effusion in breast carcinoma

Cancer. 2006 Jan 15;106(2):271-6. doi: 10.1002/cncr.21623.


Background: Advanced breast carcinoma almost always leads to a malignant pleural effusion, conditioning the performance status of patients and consequently quality of life. The treatment of malignant pleural effusion should be a priority in the management of such patients. The results of video-thoracoscopic approach (VATS) chemical pleurodesis was analyzed in patients with recurrent pleural effusion from breast carcinoma.

Methods: From October 1998 to June 2004, 71 consecutive patients with breast carcinoma-related pleural effusion were treated by the same thoracic-surgeon team with intracavitary nebulization of 8 g of asbestos-free sterilized talc via VATS. Multiple pleural biopsies were performed to determine biologic characteristics of recurrent disease.

Results: Talc pleurodesis was performed in all cases, with no intraoperative or postoperative complications. Median length of hospital stay was 5 days (range, 5-8). The overall success rate of the surgical procedure was 89% (confidence interval [CI], 79-95%) with a mean follow-up of 22 months (range, 2-81 mos). The overall survival time was 17 months (range, 2-80). Biopsies showed a switch on receptor status and c-erB-2 status from negative (primary tumor) to positive (pleural metastasis) in 11 (15%) patients. In another 7 (9.8%) patients, we obtained completely new information that was hitherto unknown.

Conclusion: Talc pleurodesis via VATS is an effective and safe procedure that yields a high rate of success at the first attempt and achieves long-term control of malignant pleural effusion due to breast carcinoma. Concomitant biopsies performed during the VATS procedure were a determining factor in the subsequent decision-making process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Carcinoma / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / surgery
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / therapy*
  • Pleurodesis*
  • Talc / administration & dosage*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Talc