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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1990 Oct;19(4):859-65.

Regional nodal irradiation in the conservative treatment of breast cancer.

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  • 1Department of Therapeutic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


At this institution conservative treatment of breast cancer was begun in the 1960's. The following analysis represents our experience through 1984 with specific reference to the management of the regional lymph nodes. A total of 432 patients with clinical stage I and II breast cancer were treated between 1962 and 1984 with lumpectomy and radiation therapy. The breast was treated with tangential fields to a median dose of 4800 cGy and electron conedown to a total tumor bed dose of 6400 cGy. Axillary dissection was not routinely performed, particularly in the earlier years. More recently, axillary dissection has been used with increasing frequency if it was felt that the results of the dissection would influence systemic treatment. One hundred eighty-seven patients (43%) underwent axillary dissection (30% pathologically positive) and routinely received regional nodal irradiation (median dose 4600 cGy) to the internal mammary and supraclavicular lymph nodes. Two hundred forty-five patients (57%) did not undergo axillary dissection and routinely received regional nodal irradiation to the internal mammary, supraclavicular, and entire axillary regions to a total median dose of 4600 cGy. As of May 1989 with a median follow-up of 7.5 years, there have been a total of 12 nodal failures for an actuarial nodal control rate of 97% at 5 years and 96% at 10 years. The actuarial 5-year regional nodal control rate was the same for both the group of patients receiving regional RT alone without axillary dissection and the group of patients receiving axillary dissection and supraclavicular/internal mammary radiation. There has been minimal morbidity associated with this treatment policy. We conclude that regional nodal irradiation as described above, with or without axillary dissection, results in a high rate of regional nodal control and minimal treatment morbidity in patients undergoing conservative treatment of early stage breast cancer.

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