Staging studies have limited utility for newly diagnosed stage I-II breast cancer

Andrew Linkugel, Julie Margenthaler, Barbara Dull, Amy Cyr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background For stage I-II breast cancer, routine radiologic staging in the absence of symptoms suggesting distant metastasis is not recommended. This study aims to determine the yield of these studies at a National Comprehensive Cancer Network member institution. Methods Patients presenting with clinical stage I-II breast cancer between 1998 and 2012 were identified in a prospective database. Charts were reviewed to document staging studies (computed tomography, bone scan, and positron emission tomography) performed within 6 mo of diagnosis. Results and additional diagnostic procedures were recorded. Appropriate statistical tests were used for the analysis. Results A total of 3291 patients were included (2044 stage I and 1247 stage II). Eight hundred eighty-two patients (27%) received computed tomography, bone scan, or positron emission tomography within 6 mo of diagnosis. Three hundred twelve patients were stage I (15% of the stage I cohort) and 570 patients were stage II (46% of the stage II cohort). Patients receiving staging studies were more often younger and had estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor-negative or HER2/neu-positive tumors. Of the 882 patients, 194 (22%) required additional imaging and/or biopsies to further evaluate abnormalities. Only 11 of those (5%) were confirmed to have metastasis (1.2% of the imaged patients, 0.3% of the total cohort). Of these, 1 was stage I at presentation and 10 were stage II. Conclusions Identification of distant metastasis among stage I-II patients was rare. Even among patients judged appropriate for staging, only 1.2% were diagnosed with metastatic disease. These findings suggest that even at a National Comprehensive Cancer Network member institution staging studies are overused and lead to additional testing in over 20% of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Breast cancer
  • Metastasis
  • Radiology studies
  • Staging


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