Tubular carcinoma of the breast: an institutional review

Am Surg. 1997 Jul;63(7):639-44; discussion 644-5.


Tubular carcinoma of the breast is a rare, but distinct, well-differentiated histologic subtype of invasive carcinoma, known for its favorable prognosis. Review of the literature reveals controversy relative to the frequency of tubular carcinoma, the mammographic appearance, the incidence of lymph node metastases, and the need for axillary node dissection. In consideration of these variables and because of the concern that this type of breast cancer was being surgically over-treated, this review was undertaken. Through the use of our tumor registry, a retrospective review of patients with invasive breast cancer was carried out from January 1984 to September 1995. Of 1483 total cases of invasive breast carcinoma, 22 (1.5%) had a diagnosis of pure tubular carcinoma (> 90% tubular component). The mean age was 58 years (range, 37-80). In 14 patients, the lesion was detected solely by mammography with a mean size of 1.0 cm (range, 0.5-1.5 cm). The mean pathologic tumor size was 1.2 cm (range, 0.5-2.9 cm). The mean number of nodes, in 22 axillary specimens, was 19 (range, 8-30). In one patient, there was lymph node metastasis to a single node (4.5% incidence), which demonstrated tubular characteristics. Presently, 18 of the patients are alive and disease free, with a mean follow-up of 3.5 years (range, 4 months to 9 years). Our study confirms the low incidence of pure tubular carcinoma, 1.5 per cent, with the lesions being small, 1.2 cm in mean size. The mammographic lesions had no unique features that would distinguish tubular from other invasive carcinomas. With the small tumor size and the overall excellent prognosis, these patients are ideal candidates for breast preservation. Most importantly, the review did demonstrate that even in pure tubular breast carcinoma, lymph node metastases, though rare, can occur.

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Adenocarcinoma* / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma* / therapy
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies