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Adv Anat Pathol. 2008 Sep;15(5):253-62. doi: 10.1097/PAP.0b013e31818323ac.

Sentinel lymph node biopsy for patients with diagnostically controversial Spitzoid melanocytic tumors?

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, USA.


The distinction of a Spitz nevus from melanoma can be very difficult. Pathologists may disagree on whether a Spitzoid melanocytic proliferation is benign or malignant, or acknowledge uncertainty about the diagnosis. As long as melanoma is suspected or strongly considered, a clinical management plan is often adopted as if the patient had melanoma, which may include sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy for staging. The findings of the sentinel node may resolve the diagnostic controversy about the primary tumor, but there is also the risk for more diagnostic confusion, uncertainty, and errors. We review the arguments in favor and against SLN biopsy for patients with diagnostically controversial Spitzoid melanocytic tumors, summarize current experience, and illustrate diagnostic pitfalls. Although SLN biopsy provides prognostic information helpful for clinical trials, we caution against performing the procedure as a diagnostic adjunct.

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