Radiological Underestimation of Tumor Size Influences the Success Rate of Re-Excision after Breast-conserving Surgery

Eur J Breast Health. 2021 Oct 4;17(4):363-370. doi: 10.4274/ejbh.galenos.2021.2021-4-7. eCollection 2021 Oct.


Objective: Failure to achieve adequate margins after breast-conserving surgery often leads to re-excision, either by repeat breast-conserving surgery (BCS) or by mastectomy. Despite the high frequency of this problem, the success rate of achieving adequate margins by repeat BCS is not well documented. The objective of this study was to determine the success rate of repeat BCS and identify the factors influencing that rate.

Materials and methods: A retrospective review was performed of all women undergoing repeat BCS for inadequate margins after initial BCS in our breast unit between 2013 and 2019. Univariate and multivariate analyses were carried out to identify the factors influencing how often adequate margins were achieved after repeat BCS.

Results: One hundred fifty-four patients underwent repeat BCS after initially inadequate margins, of which adequate margins were achieved in 82%. Patients with successful repeat BCS had smaller tumors, had less underestimation of tumor size on imaging, and were less likely to have had cavity shaves taken at their initial BCS. A tumor size more than 50% larger than predicted by imaging was independently associated with failure of repeat BCS in multivariate analysis (odds ratio: 3.6, 95% CI: 1.41-9.20, p = 0.007). Underestimation of tumor size by imaging was commoner and more extensive in patients with larger tumors and those with ductal carcinoma in situ.

Conclusion: Re-excision by cavity shaves has a high success rate and should be offered to all patients who are deemed suitable for the procedure. Patients whose tumors are more than 50% larger than predicted by imaging should be counseled about the higher risk of failure.

Keywords: Breast-conserving surgery; breast imaging; breast neoplasms; margins of excision; re-excision.