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MRI appearances of the axilla in treated breast cancer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Amanda Potterton, Dr Andrew Chippindale, Dr John Wilsdon, Dr Helen Lucraft, Dr Peter Dawes


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Differentiation between recurrent axillary disease and changes due to radiotherapy or surgery has major implications for management in patients following breast cancer treatment, but clinical examination of the axilla may be difficult. This study was undertaken to correlate the MRI appearances of the axilla following breast cancer treatment with clinical outcome. 74 women with treated breast cancer were evaluated by MRI (0.5 T) and the appearances defined by consensus. Outcome was assessed by long-term clinical follow-up. 62 women had symptoms related to the axilla while 12 were scanned to stage the axilla. None of the axillary staging group had abnormal MRI appearances and none of these subsequently developed recurrence. The 62 symptomatic women were subdivided according to MRI appearances. 22 had normal axillary appearances, 18 had an axillary mass and 22 women had abnormal, axillary appearances (rated mild, moderate and severe) in the absence of a mass. Normal axillary appearances on MRI excluded recurrent disease as the cause of symptoms with a specificity of 94.7% and a positive predictive value (PPV) of 95.5%, The presence of an axillary mass was commonly but not exclusively due to recurrent disease (sensitivity 68.4%, specificity 88.4%, PPV 72.2%). Sensitivity for diagnosis of axillary recurrence was increased to 89.5% with a specificity of 76.7% if the criteria for recurrent disease were taken as either the presence of an axillary mass or severe axillary changes in the absence of a mass lesion.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Potterton AJ, Yuille F, Tinkler S, Chippindale AJ, Wilsdon JB, Lucraft HH, Dawes PJDK, Coulthard A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: British Journal of Radiology

Year: 1999

Volume: 72

Issue: 855

Pages: 250-257

Print publication date: 01/03/1999

ISSN (print): 0007-1285

ISSN (electronic): 1748-880X

Publisher: British Institute of Radiology