Changes in breast cancer reports after pathology second opinion

Breast J. May-Jun 2014;20(3):295-301. doi: 10.1111/tbj.12252. Epub 2014 Apr 2.


Breast cancer pathology reports contain valuable information about the histologic diagnosis, prognostic factors and predictive indicators of therapeutic response. A second opinion may be requested by medical oncologists and surgeons, when a patient is referred from another institution for treatment. We report the experience with pathology second opinion in selected patients referred to the Breast Oncology Unit. 205 cases referred to the Breast Oncology Unit were selected for second opinion after clinical evaluation, between 2002 and 2012. The cases reviewed included 102 core needle biopsies, 88 surgical specimens from the breast and 18 lymphadenopathies, 14 from the axillary region. Pathology second opinion was based on a review of hematoxylin-eosin preparations, recuts of submitted paraffin blocks and written external pathology reports. Immunohistochemical studies for hormone receptors, HER2, myoepithelial cells, and other markers were performed in selected cases. A case was reclassified as showing major change when second opinion showed a potential for significant change in prognosis or treatment. Otherwise, it was considered to represent minor change or to be concordant. In 52 cases (25.4%), the pathology review showed changes. Thirty-three (16%) patients were reclassified for major changes and 19 (9.2%) as minor changes. In six patients, more than one major change was identified. The major discrepancies identified were related to the histologic classification (12 cases), the presence or absence of invasion in ductal carcinoma (15 cases), the results of hormone receptors (5 cases), and HER2 (7 cases). Major changes in histologic classification included two cases diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinoma and reclassified as benign, four cases with diagnosis of breast cancer reclassified as metastatic lung cancer, one case diagnosed as small cell carcinoma of lung metastatic in the breast, reclassified as primary carcinoma of the breast, and three cases with diagnosis of breast cancer in the axilla reclassified as primary cutaneous adnexal carcinomas (2) and metastatic melanoma (1), respectively. In two cases, the histologic type of the primary breast tumor was changed. Second opinion in breast pathology may uncover significant discrepancies that impact on patient management and prognosis. Major discrepancies are most frequently related to the assessment of the presence or absence of invasion in ductal carcinoma, the results of predictive makers of therapeutic response, and the differential diagnosis of breast cancer and nonmammary tumors in the breast, the axilla, and at distant sites.

Keywords: breast cancer; pathology; second opinion.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Large-Core Needle
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Referral and Consultation* / statistics & numerical data


  • ERBB2 protein, human
  • Receptor, ErbB-2