Aims: The purpose of this study was to clarify the prognostic significance of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) with a tumor size ≤ 1 cm. Materials and methods: Patients with primary operable breast cancer with a tumor size ≤ 1 cm were enrolled at Changhua Christian Hospital and National Cheng-Kung University Hospital. Tumors negative for ER, PR, and HER-2 were classified as TNBCs and compared with tumors with any receptor positivity (non-TNBC) for disease-free survival (DFS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS). Results: From 1995 to 2006, a total of 377 patients with tumor size ≤ 1 cm were enrolled. Compared with non-TNBC patients, TNBC patients with a tumor size ≤ 1 cm as a whole or in a lymph node-positive subgroup were not associated with a poorer 5-year DFS and CSS. In lymph node-negative patients (pT1a-bN0M0), TNBC was associated with a poorer 5-year CSS but not DFS. Compared with the hormone receptor-positive, HER-2-negative subgroup, TNBC was associated with poorer DFS and CSS. In the multivariate Cox regression hazard analysis, lymph node invasion was the most important cause of disease recurrence and cancer-specific death. Conclusion: TNBC is very likely an independent risk factor in small (≤1 cm) node-negative invasive breast cancer. With tumors 1 cm and smaller, lymph node invasion was the single most important prognostic factor.
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