Breast conserving surgery (BCS) is now the standard of care for the majority of women with early stage breast cancer. There is a finite rate of ipsilateral breast tumour recurrence (IBTR) for breast conserving therapy (BCT) with annual rates of less than 1% for specialist breast practices.
There has been recent consensus on the definition of an adequate resection margin for both invasive and noninvasive breast cancer treated with BCS, although some variation in margin policy persists with definitions of ‘no tumour at ink’, 1 and 2 mm margin mandates.
Despite the development of methods for intraoperative assessment of margins, up to 20% of patients require further surgery (cavity re-excision or completion mastectomy) to achieve clear surgical margins.
In the past decade, several novel technologies for intraoperative margin assessment have been explored with the aim of reducing rates of re-operation and its attendant patient anxiety, inconvenience and additional cost. Ongoing studies are addressing the safety, feasibility and cost-effectiveness of these novel technologies relative to methods in routine clinical usage.