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Br J Cancer. 1996 September; 74(5): 820–824.
PMCID: PMC2074702

Multicentricity of breast cancer: whole-organ analysis and clinical implications.


We studied the spatial relationship within the breast between multicentric foci (MCF) and the primary tumour in 30 modified radical mastectomy specimens using Egan's correlated pathological-radiological method using 5 mm slices of the whole breast. The relative positions within the breast of the primary tumour and MCF were used to calculate the relative distribution of primary tumour and MCF in the four quadrants of the breast and the per cent breast volume that would be required to be excised to include all MCF. Nineteen (63%) breast harboured MCF. The relative distribution of primary tumour and MCF in the four breast quadrants was significantly different (P = 0.034). MCF were present beyond the index quadrant (25% of breast volume including the tumour) in as many as 79% (15/19) of breasts that harboured MCF; and in half the cases (15/30) when all breast were considered. This is in variance with the suggestion put forward previously that MCF are contained within the index quadrant in 90% of cases. Although the number of patients in the present series is small, the probability of our finding being due to play of chance is 1 in 1500. In a large series of breast conservation studies > 90% of early breast recurrences have been found to occur in the index quadrant. Our finding, that in half the patients (15/30) MCF are present in quadrants other than the index quadrant, suggests that MCF do not give rise to early breast recurrence.

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