Patient treatment and outcome after breast cancer orbital and periorbital metastases: a comprehensive case series including analysis of lobular versus ductal tumor histology

Breast Cancer Res. 2020 Jun 26;22(1):70. doi: 10.1186/s13058-020-01309-3.


Background: Breast cancer is the most common malignancy to spread to the orbit and periorbit, and the invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) histologic subtype of breast cancer has been reported to form these ophthalmic metastases (OM) more frequently than invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC). We herein report our single academic institution experience with breast cancer OM with respect to anatomical presentation, histology (lobular vs. ductal), treatment, and survival.

Methods: We employed the natural language processing platform, TIES (Text Information Extraction System), to search 2.3 million de-identified patient pathology and radiology records at our institution in order to identify patients with OM secondary to breast cancer. We then compared the resultant cohort, the "OM cohort," to two other representative metastatic breast cancer patient (MBC) databases from our institution. Histological analysis of selected patients was performed.

Results: Our TIES search and manual refinement ultimately identified 28 patients who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1995 and 2016 that subsequently developed OM. Median age at diagnosis was 54 (range 28-77) years of age. ER, PR, and HER2 status from the 28 patients with OM did not differ from other patients with MBC from our institution. The relative proportion of patients with ILC was significantly higher in the OM cohort (32.1%) than in other MBC patients in our institution (11.3%, p = 0.007). Median time to first OM in the OM cohort was 46.7 months, and OM were the second most frequent first metastases after bony metastases. After diagnosis of the first distant metastasis of any kind, median survival of patients with ILC (21.4 months) was significantly shorter than that of patients with IDC (55.3 months, p = 0.03). Nine patients developed bilateral OM. We observed a significant co-occurrence of OM and central nervous system metastases (p = 0.0053). The histological analysis revealed an interesting case in which the primary tumor was of a mixed ILC/IDC subtype, while only ILC was present in the OM.

Conclusions: OM from breast cancer are illustrative of the difference in metastatic behavior of ILC versus IDC and should be considered when treating patients with ILC, especially in those with complaints of visual acuity changes.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Eye; Invasive lobular carcinoma; Metastasis; Ophthalmology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / mortality*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / radiotherapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Orbital Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Orbital Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Orbital Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Prognosis
  • Radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


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