Frozen tissue analysis better option for breast lumpectomies

Volume 5, Issue 2, 2016


Procedure reduces likelihood of second operation, saving time and money and reducing anxiety.

Photograph of Judy C. Boughey, M.D.

Judy C. Boughey, M.D.

When diagnosed with breast cancer, women may have thousands of questions running through their minds. But one question they may not have immediately is this: Will my choice of provider save me time and money?

Mayo Clinic researchers have answered this question with compelling statistics that may encourage women and their doctors — and the health care system at large — to consider a different way of doing business, specifically with respect to lumpectomies as a treatment for early-stage breast cancer.

The different way would be to use intraoperative frozen section analysis to determine whether the tumor was removed completely during the first surgery. Doing this in a widespread manner could reduce anxiety and save women untold hours of lost work and tens of millions of dollars. The full study was published April 12, 2016, in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Frozen section analysis, pioneered at Mayo Clinic more than 100 years ago, is used in various surgeries at Mayo Clinic, including breast cancer lumpectomies. A study published July 2014 in the journal Surgery indicated that Mayo Clinic patients who had frozen section analysis conducted were much less likely to require a second operation than were patients at other institutions where traditional surgery with post-surgical pathology reports was used.

"With the routine use of frozen section analysis of margins on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, we rarely — in only 3 to 5 percent of cases — require a second operation for margin re-excision," said first author Judy C. Boughey, M.D., a breast surgeon with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Rochester, Minnesota. "So, for over 95 percent of patients undergoing lumpectomy, only one operation is required."