Changing pattern of the detection of locoregional relapse in breast cancer: the Edinburgh experience

D A Montgomery, K Krupa, W J L Jack, G R Kerr, I H Kunkler, J Thomas, J M Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The guidelines for follow-up of breast cancer patients concentrate on the first 3-5 years, with either reduced frequency of visits or discharge after this. They also recommend mammography, but no evidence exists to inform frequency. We analyse treatable relapses in our unit from 1312 patients with early stage breast cancer treated by breast conserving surgery (BCS) and postoperative radiotherapy between 1991 and 1998 to assess appropriateness of the guidelines. A total of 110 treatable relapses were analysed. Treatable relapse developed at 1-1.5% per year throughout follow-up. Forty-eight relapses were in ipsilateral breast, 25 ipsilateral axilla, 35 contralateral breast, 2 both breasts simultaneously. Thirty-seven relapses (33.5%) were symptomatic, 56 (51%) mammographically detected, 15 (13.5%) clinically detected, 2 (2%) diagnosed incidentally. Mammography detected 5.37 relapses per 1000 mammograms. Patients with symptomatic or mammographically detected ipsilateral breast relapse had significantly longer survival from original diagnosis (P=0.0002) and from recurrence (P=0.0014) compared with clinically detected. Treatable relapse occurs at a constant rate for at least 10 years. Clinical examination detects a minority (13.5%). Relapse diagnosed clinically is associated with poorer outcome. Long-term follow-up based on regular mammography is warranted for all patients treated by BCS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1802-7
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2007


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scotland
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors


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