Background: One of the primary benefits of breast conserving therapy (BCT) is the potential ability to preserve the aesthetic appearance of the breast. However, current literature and clinical experience suggest that the aesthetic benefits of BCT may not be equally shared among ethnic groups. This is a pilot study that uses novel techniques to evaluate the cosmetic outcomes of African American and white women following BCT. Methods: A total of 21 participants (10 African American and 11 white) completed the study. Cosmetic outcomes following BCT were evaluated by a multidisciplinary team using both quantitative and qualitative measures, including 3-dimensional photographic analysis and a pilot questionnaire. Preliminary measures were taken to evaluate the validity of the questionnaire. Results: There were no statistically significant differences in objective measures of breast symmetry between African American patients and white patients (P > 0.05 in all cases). However, all raters reported the African American patients to have worse breast symmetry and appearance when compared with white patients. Interrater reliability was found to be fair with regard to the nipple complex questions [intraclass correlation (ICC), 0.56], good with regard to the breast mound questions (ICC, 0.66), and poor with regard to the scar appearance questions (ICC = 0.32). Conclusions: Although generalizing the results of this study is limited by the small sample size, it seems that there is a difference in the perception of cosmetic outcomes between white and African American patients. The novel techniques of cosmetic evaluation used in this study show promise toward identifying variables that can affect cosmetic outcome following BCT.
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