Breast carcinoma with noninflammatory skin involvement (T4b)

Time to abandon an historic relic from the TNM classification




In this study, the authors evaluated the clinical presentation of patients with T4b breast carcinoma, analyzed the impact of noninflammatory skin involvement on long-term survival, and addressed the question whether the T4 tumor category still has any justification.


The clinical course of a study group of 119 patients with skin involvement was compared with the outcome of a control group of 299 consecutive patients who had tumors of the same size but without skin involvement. All tumors were stratified into 1 of 4 subsets according to greatest tumor dimension, as follows: Group A, ≤ 3.0 cm; Group B, 3.1–5.0 cm; Group C, 5.1–10.0 cm; and Group D, > 10.0 cm.


The study group distribution of patients within the size subsets were as follows: Group A, 26.1%; Group B, 24.3%; Group C, 26.1%; and Group D, 23.5%. Differences in disease-specific survival between the tumor size subsets were significant (Groups A and B vs. Groups C and D; P < 0.0001). In contrast to large tumors (> 5.0 cm), carcinomas ≤ 5.0 cm showed no statistical significant differences in disease-specific survival between study group patients and control group patients (Group A: P = 0.17; Group B: P = 0.31).


There is a broad range of clinicopathologic breast carcinoma entities within the T4b category. For > 50% of patients with T4b breast carcinoma, the feature noninflammatory skin involvement had no significant prognostic impact. Approximately 25% of patients had an extent of disease similar to that observed in patients with Stage I–II disease and, thus, falsely were considered to have more advanced disease. Heterogeneity and a lack of prognostic significance suggest that a revision of the T4 category, a relic of historic tumor classifications, is necessary. Cancer 2005. © 2005 American Cancer Society.