Breast conservation treatment followed, if useful, by adjuvant therapy is the treatment of choice in early breast cancer. Late cosmetic outcome and toxicity are important in comparing conservative treatment to mastectomy. We reviewed the records of 225 patients treated from 1981 to 1988 with a median follow-up of 74 months (range 12–156 months). Cosmetic results, either reported by the physician (82.4%) or by the patients themselves (81.5 %), were generally excellent or good, and tended to decline with time (69 and 75.5%, respectively). Toxicity was mild with arm edema (14.6%) being the most frequent symptom. No severe toxicities were observed. We conclude that overall cosmesis has been acceptable in this series and that a low rate of long-term toxicity can be expected with this conservative approach.

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