Tumor Size in Breast Carcinoma: Gross Measurement Is Important!

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Introduction. The staging of breast carcinoma is mainly dependent on tumor size and lymph node status. Small increments in tumor size upstage the patient. An accurate determination of the tumor size is therefore critically important. Although the final staging is based on microscopic size, pathologists rely on gross measurements in a considerable number of cases. Methods. We investigated the concordance between gross and microscopic measurements of breast carcinoma as well as factors affecting this concordance. This study is a retrospective review of surgical pathology reports of invasive breast carcinomas. Data were collected for 411 cases. Concordance was defined as a size difference within ±2 mm. Results. Gross and microscopic sizes were identical in 33.1% of cases. Gross and microscopic size difference was within ±2 mm in 56% of cases. Despite the size difference, stage classification ended up being the same in 68.6% of cases. Tumor stage was over estimated by gross measurement in 17.0% of cases and underestimated in 14.4% of cases. The concordance was significantly higher for those tumors in which final pathologic tumor (pT) size was greater than 2 cm (≥pT2) as compared with those less than or equal to 2 cm (≤pT1; P < .0001). A higher proportion of mastectomy specimens (61.4%) were concordant as compared with lumpectomy specimens (52.1%). Conclusion. Gross and microscopic tumor sizes were concordant in 56% of cases. Stage classification based on gross and microscopic tumor size was different in nearly one third (31.4%) of cases. Gross tumor size is critically important in accurate staging at least in cases where tumor size cannot be confirmed microscopically.

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