Preoperative chemotherapy decreases the need for re-excision of breast cancers between 2 and 4 cm diameter

Ann Surg Oncol. 2009 Mar;16(3):697-702. doi: 10.1245/s10434-008-0268-5. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Introduction: It is accepted that preoperative chemotherapy can result in increased breast preservation for breast cancers greater than 4 cm. The benefits of preoperative chemotherapy are less clear, however, for patients who present with smaller tumors and are already candidates for breast-preserving surgery. The goal of this study is to assess the effect of preoperative chemotherapy on breast cancers between 2 and 4 cm diameter.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients diagnosed with new breast cancer at the Yale-New Haven Breast Center for the years 2002-2007. Patients were included in the study if their breast cancer was between 2 and 4 cm and their initial surgical treatment had been completed. Patients with distant metastases were excluded.

Results: There were 156 new cancers that met study requirements. Forty-seven patients underwent preoperative chemotherapy, and 109 patients had their surgery first, usually followed by chemotherapy. Initial surgery was lumpectomy for 31 out of 47 patients (66%) in the preoperative chemotherapy group compared with 62 out of 109 patients (57%) in the surgery group. For patients with lumpectomies, 2 out of 31 patients (6%) in the preoperative group had positive margins and required re-excision compared with 20 out of 62 patients (37%) in the surgery-first group (P<0.01).

Conclusions: We conclude that, for tumors between 2 and 4 cm, preoperative chemotherapy is associated with a significantly decreased rate of re-excision following lumpectomy. This not only results in fewer mastectomies, but also avoids the morbidity and inferior cosmetic results associated with a re-excision lumpectomy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthracyclines / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Bridged-Ring Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / surgery
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / surgery
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mastectomy
  • Mastectomy, Segmental
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Preoperative Care
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Taxoids / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anthracyclines
  • Bridged-Ring Compounds
  • Taxoids
  • taxane