Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 155, Issue 2, pp 395–403 | Cite as

Incidental radiologic findings at breast cancer diagnosis and likelihood of disease recurrence

  • Joel M. Brothers
  • Kelley M. Kidwell
  • Richard K. J. Brown
  • N. Lynn Henry


Despite guidelines recommending against its routine use, perioperative imaging for distant metastases is frequently performed in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, uncovering incidental findings of uncertain significance. We assessed the clinical significance of incidental findings by determining if their presence is associated with disease recurrence. A retrospective review of staging imaging was performed in patients with stage II or III invasive breast cancer diagnosed during 2008–2009 at a large academic medical center. Data related to perioperative imaging and disease recurrence were abstracted from the medical record. Kaplan–Meier curves and Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the association between incidental findings and time to disease recurrence. A total of 169 of 340 patients (49.7 %) underwent staging evaluation for distant metastases (CT chest, abdomen, pelvis, bone scan, and/or PET-CT). Of these, 146 (86.4 %) had at least one suspicious or indeterminate finding. Follow-up studies were performed in 73 (43.2 %) patients. Nineteen patients were diagnosed with metastatic disease at diagnosis, 18 of whom had stage III disease. In patients without metastatic disease at diagnosis, 32 later developed recurrence. Non-calcified pulmonary nodules were associated with shorter time to disease recurrence (hazard ratio 2.51, 95 % CI 1.13–5.57, p = 0.02). Imaging for distant metastases frequently reveals indeterminate findings, most of which are not associated with disease recurrence. The association between pulmonary nodules and recurrence warrants validation in an independent cohort. Overall, these findings support current guidelines recommending against routine extent of disease evaluation in patients with newly diagnosed stage II breast cancer.


Breast Cancer Incidental Findings Staging CT PET Bone Scan 



Dr. Henry was supported in part by an NCI Clinical Cancer Investigator Team Leadership Award (supplement to 3-P30-CA046592, PI M Wicha).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Dr. Henry has previously received research funding from BioMarin, Celldex, and Sanofi. No other authors have conflicts of interest to report.

Informed consent

Institutional Review Board approval was granted for this study and a waiver of informed consent was obtained.

Supplementary material

10549_2016_3687_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (194 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 194 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel M. Brothers
    • 1
  • Kelley M. Kidwell
    • 2
  • Richard K. J. Brown
    • 3
  • N. Lynn Henry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiostatisticsUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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