Axillary metastasis from an occult breast carcinoma is an uncommon presentation and presents a therapeutic dilemma. The objective of this study is to describe the presenting clinical features, management approach and treatment outcomes for occult breast carcinoma. We conducted a retrospective review of patients who presented with axillary nodal metastases from an occult breast carcinoma between 1997 and 2004 at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute; 2,150 patients were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer during this period. After excluding stage I and IV patients, we identified 642 who had disease metastatic to lymph nodes, 10 of these had no primary tumor in the breast despite a thorough evaluation including bilateral mammography and breast ultrasound. Of these, 7 had undergone breast magnetic resonance imaging as well. All patients underwent axillary nodal dissection. The breast was managed with radiotherapy alone in 8 patients, wide local excision with radiation therapy in 1 patient and 1 patient underwent mastectomy. No patient had a recurrence with a median 57 months of follow-up. Breast conservation with radiation therapy alone can be considered as a management option for women with occult breast cancer presenting with axillary nodal metastasis.
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