Breast cancer screening pathology: an assessment of the practise and needs in Belgium and Luxembourg

Research paper by D. Faverly, F. Renard, M. Drijkoningen, R. Scheiden

Indexed on: 01 Oct '00Published on: 01 Oct '00Published in: Virchows Archiv


Education and quality assurance (QA) in breast screening pathology have been encouraged by the Europe Against Cancer programme. As a prerequisite for the set-up of a QA programme in Belgium and in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, an inquiry was initiated to evaluate the daily practise in breast pathology, the modalities in handling and analysing breast specimens and the willingness of the pathologists to participate in a QA scheme. Of the 278 mailed questionnaires, 109 confidential and valid questionnaires were returned, meaning a participation rate of 40%. All 109 respondents indicated their willingness to voluntarily participate in the further QA programme. Segmental resections for conservative surgery and excision biopsies ranked first and second, respectively, in examination requests. Of the respondents, 50% complained about the lack of clinical information on the pathology request form. A multidisciplinary team approach for the diagnosis of screen-detected lesions was deemed desirable by 87% of the respondents, but only 16% of them actually participate in such pre-operative meetings. Even more puzzling is that 75% of the respondents report regular unavailability of the control radiogram of the surgical specimen removed for non-palpable lesions. One-quarter to one-third of the pathologists still regularly perform frozen sections on microcalcifications or tumours smaller than 1 cm. However, 81% of the respondents estimate that pre-operative diagnosis is not appropriate for this type of lesion. The results of this inquiry show that the guidelines for the diagnosis of screen-detected breast lesions are not yet fully applied in daily practise. The development of local comprehensive breast teams involving a pathologist should improve the co-ordination between the medical disciplines, represent an important way of disseminating the guidelines on breast screening pathology and stimulate the relay unit to conduct QA programmes.