Completion of axillary dissection for a positive sentinel node: Necessary or not?

Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.
Current Oncology Reports (Impact Factor: 2.89). 02/2009; 11(1):15-20. DOI: 10.1007/s11912-009-0004-8
Source: PubMed


Sentinel node excision has been widely accepted as the initial surgical step for evaluating the axilla for metastatic breast cancer. When the nodes are positive, the standard of care is to complete the axillary node dissection, a more extended procedure that carries an increased risk for morbidity. This article reviews data from sentinel lymph node trials, case series reports of outcomes when axillary node dissection was not performed in the setting of positive sentinel nodes, models for predicting the status of nonsentinel nodes, and the morbidity associated with axillary operations. Despite an approximate 10% false-negative rate, early results indicate that there is a much lower local recurrence rate after sentinel node excision alone and that systemic therapy may sterilize the axilla. In selected patients, it may be appropriate to forgo an axillary node dissection, although there are no randomized clinical trial data to support or refute this suggestion.

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