Breast conserving therapy in breast cancer patients presenting with nipple discharge

Edward Obedian, Bruce G. Haffty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: To retrospectively review the outcome of conservatively treated breast cancer patients who present with nipple discharge at initial diagnosis.Methods and Materials: The charts of 1097 patients undergoing conservative surgery and radiation therapy between January 1970 and December 1990 were reviewed. All patient data, including clinical, pathologic, treatment, and outcome variables were entered onto a computerized database. For the current study, specific attention was directed to the initial presenting symptoms and patients were divided into two groups: those presenting at initial diagnosis with nipple discharge (D/C-YES, n = 17), and those presenting without nipple discharge (D/C-NO, n = 1080).Results: As of August 1998, with a median follow-up of 12 years, the 10-year actuarial survival, distant metastasis-free survival, and breast relapse-free survival rates for the overall population were 73%, 78%, and 83%, respectively. Although the D/C-YES and D/C-NO groups were well balanced with respect to the majority of clinical factors, the D/C-YES patients had a higher percentage of DCIS histology (7.3% vs 1.2%, p < 0.01), were less likely to undergo reexcision (12% vs 35%), and were more frequently under age 40 (35% vs 12%) than the D/C-NO patients. Over the time span of this study, status of the final surgical margin was indeterminate in the majority of cases. Local relapses occurred in 6 of the 17 patients in the D/C-YES group, resulting in a 10-year actuarial breast relapse-free survival rate of 50%, which was signifcantly lower than the 10-year breast relapse-free survival rate of 86% in the D/C-NO population. Among the patients presenting with nipple discharge, those with sacrifice of the nipple areolar complex had a lower local relapse rate than those patients who had conservation of the nipple areolar complex (20% vs 42%), although this difference did not reach statistical significance.Conclusions: Although patients presenting with nipple discharge may be suitable candidates for radiation therapy, local relapse rates were higher than those presenting without nipple discharge. The limitations of the study and implications regarding breast conserving management in patients presenting with nipple discharge are discussed. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-142
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast conserving surgery
  • Local relapse
  • Nipple discharge
  • Radiation


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