Mediastinal carcinosis involving the esophagus in breast cancer: The "breast-esophagus" syndrome: Report on 25 cases and guidelines for diagnosis and treatment

Sabrina Rampado, Alberto Ruol, Maria Guido, Giovanni Zaninotto, Giorgio Battaglia, Mario Costantini, Giuseppe Portale, Alessandra Amico, Ermanno Ancona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Breast metastases of mucosal/submucosal layers of the esophagus are extremely rare: esophageal involvement is usually part of a mediastinal carcinosis. AIM: We report the largest series to date of 25 cases of metastatic esophageal involvement from breast cancer, discussing both diagnostic techniques and treatment options. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-five female patients with a history of breast cancer referred for secondary esophageal involvement (1980-2006) were studied. RESULTS: All patients presented with worsening dysphagia. Twenty-four had undergone surgery for breast cancer a median of 10 years earlier: 1 had received chemoradiotherapy, and 17 had adjuvant radiotherapy/telecobalt therapy following breast surgery. Endoscopic biopsy/cytology were negative for cancer in 17 of 19 patients; in 9 patients, the diagnosis was made with thoracoscopy/laparoscopy. Immunohistochemical staining was done in 10 patients (ER and/or PrR positive). Fifteen patients presented with distant metastatic involvement. Therapy was directed toward dysphagia relief, mostly with endoscopic dilations/prostheses. Complications (4 perforations) occurred only in those 15 patients who had endoscopic dilations/prostheses. Fifteen patients had cytoreductive therapy. Nine of 25 patients are still alive. The median overall survival was 7 months; 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates were 44%, 16%, and 8%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: A "breast-esophagus" syndrome can be defined: it is often diagnosed only after excluding other diseases or after relief of dysphagia with adequate therapy. The presence of distant metastases helps the diagnosis of esophageal involvement from mediastinal carcinosis, while diagnosis is a problem in case of mediastinal/pleural disease only: in this case, exploratory thoracoscopy is mandatory for a final diagnosis. Given the high related risk of perforation from endoscopic procedures (dilations/prostheses), the treatments of choice are currently hormone therapy or chemotherapy/radiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-322
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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