Impact of breast surgery on survival in patients with distant metastases at initial presentation: a systematic review of the literature

Jetske Ruiterkamp*, Adri C. Voogd, Koop Bosscha, Vivianne C. G. Tjan-Heijnen, Miranda F. Ernst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


According to current treatment standards, patients with metastatic breast cancer at diagnosis receive palliative therapy. Local treatment of the breast is only recommended if the primary tumor is symptomatic. Recent studies suggest that surgical removal of the primary tumor has a favorable impact on the prognosis of patients with primary metastatic breast cancer. We performed a systematic review of the literature to weigh the evidence for and against breast surgery in this patient group. Ten retrospective studies were found in which the use of breast surgery in primary metastatic breast cancer and its impact on survival was examined. The hazard ratios of the studies were pooled to provide an estimate of the overall effect of surgery, and the results and conclusions of the studies were analyzed. A crude analysis, without adjustment for potential confounders, showed that surgical removal of the breast lesion in stage-IV disease was associated with a significantly higher overall survival rate in seven of the ten studies, and a trend toward a better survival in the three remaining studies. Surgery of the primary tumor appeared to be an independent factor for an improved survival in the multivariate analyses from the individual studies, with hazard ratios ranging from 0.47 to 0.71. The pooled hazard ratio for overall mortality was 0.65 (95% CI 0.59-0.72) in favor of the patients undergoing surgery. This systematic review of the literature suggests that surgery of the primary breast tumor in patients with stage-IV disease at initial presentation does have a positive impact on survival. In order to provide a definite answer on whether local tumor control in patients with primary metastatic disease improves survival, a randomized controlled trial comparing systemic therapy with and without breast surgery is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Surgery
  • Local therapy
  • Breast cancer
  • Primary metastatic

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