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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2006 Sep;32(7):729-32. Epub 2006 Jun 13.

Comparative study of lymphoedema with axillary node dissection versus axillary node sampling with radiotherapy in patients undergoing breast conservation surgery.

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  • 1Ysbyty Gwynedd, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales, UK.



Our aim was to compare the incidence of lymphoedema in two groups of patients undergoing breast conservation surgery; one undergoing axillary sampling and radiotherapy to patients with positive axillary nodes, and the other undergoing axillary clearance.


Retrospective review of records of two sequential groups of patients; one undergoing axillary sampling between January 1994 and December 1998 (Group 1) and the other undergoing axillary clearance between January 2000 and December 2002 (Group 2). Both groups had minimum of 2 years follow-up.


Three hundred and twelve patients were included in Group 1 and 194 in Group 2. 2.2% of the patients in Group 1 developed lymphoedema compared to 12.3% in Group 2. This was statistically significant with a P value=0.0001. In the node-positive patients, the incidence of lymphoedema in Group 1 was 6.2% compared to 15.4% in Group 2, although the differences were not statistically significant with P=0.17.


The incidence of lymphoedema in the axillary sampling group was low, although the differences were less pronounced in the node-positive patients. The effectiveness of radiotherapy as an alternative to full axillary dissection among patients with positive nodes is currently under investigation in randomised controlled trials.

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