Positive margins after breast-conserving therapy: Localization technique or tumor biology?

Fariha Sheikh, Barbara Pockaj, Nabil Wasif, Amylou Dueck, Richard J. Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background The relative contributions of patient and tumor factors versus radiologic localization technique to the rates of inadequate margins of excision in breast-conserving therapy have not been defined. Methods Patients undergoing breast-conserving therapy were studied. Margins less than 2 mm from tumor were considered inadequate. Results Of 539 patients, 31% were guided by palpation and 69% were guided by preoperative radiologic localization. The palpation-guidance patients had larger tumors (P <.0001) and more nodal metastases (P =.0005). The rates of inadequate margins were 10% for palpation-guided patients and 11% for radiologic-localization patients (P =.53). The 3-year rates of local recurrence were.7% for palpation-guided patients and 1.8% for radiologic-guided patients (P =.5). Conclusions Patient, tumor, and intraoperative pathologic factors, not just localization device shortcomings, produce inadequate margins of excision in breast-conserving therapy. A reasonable expected rate of inadequate margins owing to patient and tumor factors is 10%. Quality improvement for margin management must focus on intraoperative assessment of margins, especially for patients with identified risk factors, in addition to improving localization technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-285
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • Breast-conserving therapy
  • Margins
  • Radiologic localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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