BACKGROUND: Breast cancer is the most frequent malignant neoplasm among women in the Orient. This cancer is also increasing in Korea due to westernization of the living pattern, increased recognition among the general population, and improved methods for early detection. In the surgical treatment of breast cancer, cosmetic conservation of the breast has drawn the patients' attention so that conservative surgery is increasing nowadays. The purpose of this study is to describe the current status of breast cancer management at our institution and to identify the survival and the recurrence rates according to the stage and the surgical method used. METHODS: We reviewed the medical records of 150 patients diagnosed as having breast cancer on pathologic examination at the Department of General Surgery, EulJi College of Medicine, from January 1991 to December 1996 and evaluated the clinical findings, the diagnostic method, operation, and the prognosis. RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 49.1 years, and 34.0% of the patients was in the fifth decade. A palpable mass in the breast was the most frequent clinical symptom and sign (80.7%). The interval between symptom onset and diagnosis was about 6 months in 76.0% of patients. The size of the mass was 2~5 cm in 51.3% of the patients. A modified radical mastectomy was the most frequently employed surgical method (74.0%), but conservative surgery has increased lately. Seventy-ight patients (52.0%) were in stage II. The five-ear survival rates for stages I, II, III were 100%, 82.9%, and 55.0% (p=0.00006). The five-ear survival rates for 0, 1~3, 4~9, and more than 10 axillary-ode metastases were 85.9%, 55.3%, 53.6%, and 21.1%, respectively (p=0.0007). The five-ear survival rates for breast-conserving surgery and a modified radical mastectomy, for both stage of I and II, were 90.9% and 89.3% (p=0.8114), respectively, and the recurrence rates were 17.9% and 23.8% (p=0.88). CONCLUSIONS: The authors may conclude that breast-onserving surgery may offer an effective alternative to a modified radical mastectomy for patients with stage I & II breast cancer.