- Question from Chrissy: My pathology report says that the margins were close. They are recommending doing a re-excision. Is this my best option?
- Answers - Ann Ainsworth The surgical margins are examined by the pathologist. We ink the surgical surface so we can see the relationship between the tumor and the cut surface or surgical margin of the excision. The ink shows up on the slides we examine. Tumor cells can be at the surgical margins, close to the surgical margins, or the surgical margins can be negative (free of cancer). A close surgical margin means the tumor is 1-2 mm from the inked surface of the surgical excision.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. The definition of a negative margin can vary from one hospital to another. At some institutions, if there is one normal cell between the cancer and the edge of the breast specimen (the margin), then the margin is called "negative."
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Re-excision is acceptable as long as the cosmetic results from the re-excision and subsequent radiation therapy are acceptable to the patient as an alternative to mastectomy.
Editor's Note: To help standardize the definition of negative margins, the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the Society of Surgical Oncology issued new guidelines in February 2014 saying that clear margins, no matter how small as long as there was no ink on the cancer tumor, should be the standard for lumpectomy surgery.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Your Operative and Pathology Reports featured Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. and Ann Ainsworth, M.D. answering your questions about details of pathology and operative reports and the importance of discussing them with your doctors.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in November 2004.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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