Indexed on: 31 Aug '12Published on: 31 Aug '12Published in: Journal of thoracic disease
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Patients with metastatic disease have a median survival of 12 to 24 months and most present with disseminated disease; however, some present with isolated pulmonary metastases which may benefit from surgical resection. Although the initial experience with resection of pulmonary metastases in the late 19th and early 20th centuries produced some encouraging results, patient selection criteria for resection were strict until the mid-1960's when a significant improvement in survival resulted from aggressive management of pulmonary metastasis in osteosarcoma patients. The application of this approach to breast cancer patients similarly produced encouraging results, with five year survival rates in select patients ranging from 36-54%, but this was not without controversy. In this review, we discuss the evaluation of the breast cancer patient with a pulmonary nodule, the historical evolution of the role of surgery in the management of pulmonary metastasis, as well as the latest evidence to guide patient selection and management.