Tumor Resection Margin Definitions in Breast-Conserving Surgery: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Current Literature

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Abstract

Worldwide, various guidelines recommend what constitutes an adequate margin of excision for invasive breast cancer or for ductal carcinoma-in-situ (DCIS). We evaluated the use of different tumor resection margin guidelines and investigated their impact on positive margin rates (PMR) and reoperation rates (RR). Thirteen guidelines reporting on the extent of a positive margin were reviewed along with 31 studies, published between 2011 and 2016, reporting on a well-defined PMR. Studies were categorized according to the margin definition. Pooled PMR and RR were determined with random-effect models. For invasive breast cancer, most guidelines recommend a positive margin of tumor on ink. However, definitions of reported positive margins in the clinic vary from more than focally positive to the presence of tumor cells within 3 to 5 mm from the resection surface. Within the studies analyzed (59,979 patients), pooled PMRs for invasive breast cancer ranged from 9% to 36% and pooled RRs from 77% to 99%. For DCIS, guidelines vary between no DCIS on the resection surface to DCIS cells found within a distance of 2 mm from the resection edge. Pooled PMRs for DCIS varied from 4% to 23% (840 patients). Given the differences in tumor margin definition between countries worldwide, quality control data expressed as PMR or RR should be interpreted with caution. Furthermore, the overall definition for positive resection margins for both invasive disease and DCIS seems to have become more liberal.

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