Background: The current methods for pre‑ and post‑chemotherapy examination of the extent of disease in the breast and lymph nodes do not provide sufficiently accurate information and, not infrequently, the surgeon has to re‑operate.
Objectives: To correlate the findings between three methods of examination (physical examination, ultrasonography, mammography), all performed by the same oncologic and radiologic team, in patients with locally advanced breast cancer or a tumor/breast tissue ratio that precludes breast-conserving surgery.
Methods: Forty patients (median age 48 years, range 24–73) with locally advanced breast cancer or with a tumor/breast ratio that precluded breast‑conserving surgery were evaluated by the same medical team and received neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Surgery was performed in all, and the pathologic specimen was correlated with the results of the other examinations.
Results: In the pre‑chemotherapy evaluation, the imaging findings of the breast correlated with the physical findings in 78% of the patients and with the axilla examination in 66.7%. In the post‑chemotherapy analysis, imaging agreed with the physical findings of the breast in 62.2% and in 76.3% of the axilla. Sonography best detected occult breast disease and axillary lymph nodes but correlated with pathology in only 58% of the patients in diagnosing breast tumor and in 65.8% in diagnosing axillary lymph nodes. Mammography correlated with breast and lymph node pathology in half the patients.
Conclusions: None of the classical methods of post‑neoadjuvant chemotherapy evaluations could adequately delineate the actual extent of the disease in the breast and axillary lymph nodes. More exacting techniques of imaging combined with the classical methods are required.