Nottingham Score for Breast Cancer

Last Modified: March 12, 2006

Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I do not understand my Nottingham score of 9, or the histologic grade of III/III.

Answer

Kevin R. Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

The Nottingham histologic score is simply a scoring system to assess the "grade" of breast cancers.

It is a total score based on 3 different sub-scores. The 3 sub-scores are assigned based on 3 components of how the breast cancer cells look under a microscope. (The details of these 3 components are not critical for you to understand). Each of the 3 components is assigned a sub-score of 1, 2, or 3, with 1 being best and 3 being worst. Once the 3 sub-scores are added, a Nottingham score is obtained: the minimum score possible is 3 (1+1+1) and the maximum possible is 9 (3+3+3).

A histologic grade of III is assigned to any patient with a Nottingham score of 8 or 9. Grade I refers to Nottingham scores of 3, 4, and 5, while Grade II refers to Nottingham scores of 6 and 7.

In the end, the Nottingham score and histologic grades are not very useful in the big picture, as they do not alter final overall treatment recommendations. High-score cancers tend to relapse more often than low-score cancers. Ultimately, however, we don't use the score in making clinical decisions.

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