Impact of the diagnostic methods on the therapeutic strategies

M. Greco, R. Agresti, R. Giovanazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Over the last 25 years the diagnostic approaches and therapeutic strategies of breast cancer have dramatically changed. The relationship between diagnosis and therapy has gradually become more complex due to the ever more sophisticated diagnostic tools (mammographic screening, digital mammography, magnetic resonance, SPECT scan and FDG-PET), which have improved resolution limits and accuracy, and also due to the different therapeutic planning applied to breast cancer in these years (conservative surgery, neo- adjuvant chemotherapy, axillary dissection or not). Thus, in this paper, we have briefly analyzed the many open questions in breast cancer management and the clinical challenges of present diagnostic tools in relation to pre-, peri- and postoperative phases, and to therapeutic strategies in general. The main goal of mammographic screening is to detect early invasive cancers and to treat them at the first useful moment. However, at which age should one begin screening, and what is the impact on overall survival, the cost- effectiveness, and, most of all, the best operative approach to suspect lesions? Can digital mammography give a better quality of imaging with respect to conventional mammography? Does unexpected multicentricity and/or multilocality, which is sometimes showed by magnetic resonance, have any clinical relevance? Is this technique really better than traditional methods for the identification of local recurrence? Is scintimammography able to improve the low diagnostic accuracy of mammography on non-palpable breast lesions? Moreover, at present, the need for axillary dissection and its therapeutic and staging value is deeply debated: however, clinical detection of axillary metastases is not a reliable diagnostic tool and there are no conventional radiologic techniques to be used: recently nuclear medicine imaging has provided various approaches, such as SPECT scan with different tracers, FDG-PET, or lymphoscintigraphy with gamma probe sentinel biopsy: there are not only methodologic but also phylosophic differences in using these techniques. Neo-adjuvant chemotherapy has allowed a dramatic reduction of primary breast cancer with a replanning of the surgical approach to large breast tumors but, at the same time, has posed new questions such as the adequacy of diagnostic pre- and perioperative revaluation. Finally, does postoperative follow-up take advantage of intensive diagnostic programs and are there therapeutic margins which would improve survival of patients with metastatic disease? This paper is an attempt to analyze the answers given in the literature. Nevertheless, at present, this matter is globally in progress and a scientific debate will provide, in the near future, a new promising scenario for breast cancer management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-80
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Breast neoplasms diagnosis
  • Breast neoplasms surgery
  • Breast neoplasms, radionuclide imaging
  • Chemotherapy neo- adjuvant
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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