Breast specimen shrinkage following formalin fixation
Christopher L Horn, Christopher Naugler
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Calgary, and Calgary Laboratory Services, Calgary, AB, Canada
Abstract: Accurate measurement of primary breast tumors and subsequent surgical margin assessment is critical for pathology reporting and resulting patient therapy. Anecdotal observations from pathology laboratory staff indicate possible shrinkage of breast cancer specimens due to the formalin fixation process. As a result, we conducted a prospective study to investigate the possible shrinkage effects of formalin fixation on breast cancer specimens. The results revealed no significant changes in tumor size, but there were significant changes in the distance to all surgical resection margins from the unfixed to fixed state. This shrinkage effect could interfere with the accuracy of determining distance to margin assessment and tumor-free margin assessment. Thus, changes in these measurements due to the formalin fixation process have the potential to alter treatment options for the patient.
Keywords: breast margins, formalin, shrinkage, cancer
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