The natural history of stage IV breast cancer is changing, with diagnosis when the disease burden is lower and better drugs translating into longer survival. Nevertheless, a small but constant fraction of women present with de novo stage IV disease and an intact primary tumor. The management of the primary site in this setting has classically been determined by the presence of symptoms, but this approach has been questioned based on multiple retrospective reviews reported over the past decade that suggested a survival advantage for women whose intact primary tumor is resected. These reviews are necessarily biased, as younger women with lower disease burden and more favorable biological features were offered surgery, but they led to several randomized trials to test the value of local therapy for the primary tumor in the face of distant disease. Preliminary results from 2 of these do not support a significant survival benefit, although local control benefits may exist. Completion of ongoing trials is needed to reach a definitive conclusion regarding the merit of primary tumor resection for local control and survival. Until unbiased data are available, local therapy for asymptomatic primary tumors cannot be recommended in the expectation of a survival benefit.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Cancer Research