Preoperative bone scans were obtained in 104 patients with operable breast cancer. Areas of increased radioactivity detected by the bone scan were correlated with appropriate radiographs. One of 64 patients (1.5%) with clinical Stage I and Stage II breast cancer had a metastatic lesion detected by the preoperative bone scan. In contrast, 10 of 41 patients (24%) with Stage III breast cancer had occult metastatic lesions detected by the preoperative bone scan. The majority of patients with abnormal bone scans and no radiographic evidence of a benign lesion to explain the cause of the increased radioactivity proved to have metastatic breast cancer on follow-up examination. Even though 20% of patients with operable breast cancer will eventually develop bone metastases, our results indicate that preoperative bone scans are not an effective means of predicting which patients with Stage I and Stage II disease will develop metastatic breast cancer. Because of the considerably increased frequency of detection of occult metastases in patients with Stage III breast cancer, bone scans should be obtained routinely in the preoperative assessment of these patients.
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