Assessment of Extent of Disease in Primary Breast Cancer

  • Melinda L. Telli
  • Alice E. Guardino


Fewer than 10% of patients with breast cancer have detectable metastases at initial diagnosis. Most patients who present with such measurable metastatic disease have the diagnosis made on the basis of symptoms or abnormal physical exam findings. A greater number of patients have occult metastatic disease at presentation yet are asymptomatic. Metastatic breast cancer is generally considered incurable, with few patients achieving long-term survival. The goal of systemic staging, therefore, is to identify patients who would be rendered incurable by the presence of distant metastases since this has important implications for prognosis and treatment. The ability to identify patients at greatest risk of measurable metastatic disease at presentation, or later in their care, facilities the appropriate use of screening studies while sparing unnecessary diagnostic procedures and the associated anxiety for those in whom testing would likely be normal. For most patients, extensive imaging can be avoided. This can be a difficult concept for patients to understand, and the usual case is that of the patient who believes that more extensive testing is beneficial.


Breast Cancer Positron Emission Tomography Metastatic Breast Cancer National Comprehensive Cancer Network Circulate Tumor Cell 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Medical Oncology, Department of MedicineStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

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