J Breast Cancer.  2007 Jun;10(2):157-161. 10.4048/jbc.2007.10.2.157.

Parameter That Predict Nipple Involvement in Breast Cancer

  • 1Department of Surgery, Soonchunhyang University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. mhlee@hosp.sch.ac.kr
  • 2Department of Radiology, Soonchunhyang University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Department of Clinical Pathology, Soonchunhyang University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


PURPOSE: Skin-sparing mastectomy (SSM) involves the resection of the nipple-areolar complex (NAC) along with the breast parenchyma, and this improves aesthetic outcome for breast cancer patients. Yet most patients desire preservation of the NAC. The purpose of this study was to determine the associated risk factors of NAC involvement and to identify the value of preoperative breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for measuring the tumor-nipple distance (TND).
This prospective study was carried out in 92 breast cancer (3 patients with bilateral breast cancer) patients who underwent MRI and they had undergone modified radical mastectomy or SSM at the Department of Surgery in Soonchunhyang University Hospital from November of 2003 to March of 2006. The patients were divided into two groups: nipple-positive for malignancy (group 1; n=9) and nipple-negative for malignancy (group 2; n=86). We analyzed the risk factors of NAC involvement, including tumor size, nuclear grade, lymph node invasion, muticentricity, TND, the hormone recepor status, and lymphovascular invasion. The TND was measured by preoperative breast MRI (the imaging distance) in all patients and by the distance of specimens which were obtained postoperatively (the real distance) in 31 patients.
The overall frequency of malignant nipple involvement was 9 of 95 (9.4%). There were no differences in tumor size, nuclear grade, lymph node invasion, muticentricity, the hormone recepor status and lymphovascular invasion between the two groups. The TND was identified as an independent predictor of malignant NAC involvement: the mean TND by breast MRI was 0.7 cm in group 1 and 2.7 cm in group 2 (p=0.01) the mean TND by pathologic measuring the specimen was 0.7 cm in group 1 and 3.2 cm in group 2 (p=0.02). In all the nipple involved cases, the tumor was within 2 cm of the nipple. In measuring the TND, there was no significant difference between the imaging distance of MRI and real distance of the sepcimen (p=0.166).
The only predictive factor for malignant NAC invasion was TND in our study. NAC preservation would be appropriate for the patients with tumor located more than 2 cm away from the nipple. The TND as determined by preoperative MRI is considered to be helpful when deciding whether to preserve the NAC.


Breast cancer; Nipple-areolar complex; Tumor-nipple distance

MeSH Terms

Breast Neoplasms*
Lymph Nodes
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Mastectomy, Modified Radical
Prospective Studies
Risk Factors


  • Fig 1 3-D reconstructive MR imaging of the breast in a patients with infiltrating ductal carcinoma. The tumor-nipple distance is measured 3.8 cm (arrow).

  • Fig 2 Comparison of methods in measuring tumor-nipple distance (TND).


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