Tumor characteristics in screen-detected and symptomatic breast cancers

Pathol Oncol Res. 2008 Jun;14(2):161-7. doi: 10.1007/s12253-008-9010-7. Epub 2008 Mar 6.


The natural course of early breast cancer has changed as a result of the introduction of mammographic screening. The present aim was a prospective analysis of screen-detected and symptomatic operable breast cancers in the era of mammographic service screening. The mode of detection (screen-detected, symptomatic or interval cancer), the type of mammographic image and other characteristics (the invasive tumor size, histological tumor type, grade, nodal, hormone receptor and HER2 status and the presence of lymphovascular invasion) of 569 invasive breast cancers were studied. Screen-detected cancers were significantly more frequently of grade I, < 10 mm of size and node-negative (p < 0.001, respectively). Symptomatic/interval cancers were significantly more frequently of grade 3, >20 mm of size (p < 0.001), and exhibited lymphovascular invasion (p = 0.001). Screening-detection of the tumor favored breast-conserving surgery, sentinel lymph node biopsy and the avoidance of chemotherapy (p < 0.001). Cancers associated with casting-type calcifications on the mammogram were typically of ductal type (p = 0.043), of grade 2-3, estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-positive (p < 0.001). Interval cancers occurred significantly more often at a younger age and remained mammographically occult as compared with other cancers. Mammographic screen-detected cancers demonstrate more favorable prognostic features, and need less extensive treatment than symptomatic or interval cancers. The mammographic appearance of the tumor reflects its biological behavior, and this should be considered in the management optimization.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mammography / methods
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Receptors, Progesterone / analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone
  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2