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Br J Cancer. 2003 Aug 18;89(4):648-52.

Comparison of quality of life and arm complaints after axillary lymph node dissection vs sentinel lymph node biopsy in breast cancer patients.

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  • 1Gynecological Department, General Hospital Bruck/Leoben, Vordernbergerstrasse 42, 8700 Leoben, Austria. florentia.peintinger@;


The sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) represents a minimal invasive surgical method for axillary staging in patients with primary breast cancer. In a prospective study, evaluation of quality of life (QOL) and arm morbidity was performed before surgery on a total of 56 breast cancer patients. The EORTC QLQ-C30 and EORTC QLQ-BR23 questionnaires were used for QOL assessment. Assessment of pain was additionally observed using the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Arm mobility was observed by goniometric measurement of arm movement. Data were collected before surgery (t1), 1 week after discharge (t2) and 9-12 months after surgery (t3). The type of axillary surgery does not seem to affect global QOL at a short-time follow-up, but patients recover sooner after SLNB. Body image and sexual functioning remain stable in both types of axillary surgery. Arm/shoulder pain was reported in 36% of patients after SLNB in comparison to 68% receiving axillary lymph node dissection (ALND), and 'numbness' was reported only in 4% of patients in the SLNB group vs 19.3% after ALND. Abduction, flexion and horizontal adduction of the affected arm show significant impairment after ALND. Breast cancer patients should be counselled about the benefits of SLNB over ALND concerning QOL and postsurgery side effects in a short-term follow-up.

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