Intra- and inter-observer variability in breast tumour bed contouring and the controversial role of surgical clips

Giulia Corrao, Damaris Patricia Rojas, Delia Ciardo, Giuseppe Fanetti, Samantha Dicuonzo, Marinella Mantovani, Marianna Alessandra Gerardi, Veronica Dell’Acqua, Anna Morra, Cristiana Fodor, Viviana Enrica Galimberti, Paolo Veronesi, Federica Cattani, Roberto Orecchia, Barbara Alicja Jereczek-Fossa, Maria Cristina Leonardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the visualization of surgical clips (SCs) on the same set of planning computed tomography (CT) of breast cancer (BC) patients influences agreement on tumour bed (TB) delineation. Planning CT (CTorig) of 47 BC patients with SCs to visualize the TB was processed in order to blur SCs and create a virtual CT (CTmod). Four radiation oncologists (ROs, 2 juniors and 2 seniors) contoured TB on both the CT sets. Centre of mass distance (CMD), percentage overlap as Dice similarity coefficient (DSC), surface distance as average Hausdorff distance (AHD) and TB volume size were analysed. The intra-observer variability when contouring TB with and without SCs was statistically significant (p-values = 0.016, 0.0002 and ≪ 0.001 for CMD, AHD and DSC, respectively). Junior ROs showed worse reproducibility compared to seniors. The median DSC was < 0.7. The inter-observer variability with and without SCs was statistically significant (p < 0.001) for all metrics, with an increase of 48.7% in DSC and decrease of 50.7% and 57.1% in CMD and AHD, respectively, as relative median values, when SCs were visible. Regarding TB volumes, when SCs were visible, the intra-observer analysis revealed that 3/4 ROs delineated larger volumes, especially juniors. The inter-observer analysis showed that, in presence of visible SCs, the difference in TB volume among all the ROs fell from statistically significant to borderline significance (p = 0.052). TB contouring is confirmed to be an observer-dependent task. SCs decreased the intra and inter-observer variability but the overall agreement between ROs remained low.

Original languageEnglish
Article number51
JournalMedical Oncology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Radiotherapy
  • Surgical clips
  • Tumour bed contouring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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