The prognostic value of clinical, quantitative, and qualitative microscopical features of both the primary tumour and also of the affected lymph nodes were investigated in 71 patients with breast cancer with spread to lymph nodes (T X N + M0). Age, tumour size, and localisation of the tumour comprised the clinical features; morphometry included assessment of the cellularity index, the mitotic activity index, and seven nuclear indices; the qualitative features investigated were histological type and grade, nuclear grade, oestrogen receptor content, number of lymph nodes affected, capsule infiltration of the nodes, presence of metastatic deposits in the efferent lymph vessels, percentage area of lymph node occupied by tumour. Immunohistochemistry was performed to show the presence of carcinoembryonic antigen and peanut agglutinin. All the patients had a minimum follow up of 24 months (maximum 48 months, mean 36 months). Analysis of the results showed that the combined results of morphometry (of the primary tumour and the axillary lymph node metastatic deposits) yielded more information than analysis of axillary lymph node state, or morphometry of the primary tumour, or the lymph node metastases alone. Patients with a nuclear axes ratio of greater than 1.41 in the primary tumour and greater than 1.36 in the lymph node metastatic deposits were less likely to develop distant metastases than patients with values below any of these thresholds (recurrence rates 5.2% and 46%, respectively). Thus the preliminary results of this prospective study indicate that morphometry provides important prognostic information in patients with breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes.
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