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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2001 Nov 1;51(3):671-8.

Relationship of sentinel and axillary level I-II lymph nodes to tangential fields used in breast irradiation.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



To evaluate the volume of nodal irradiation associated with breast-conserving therapy, we defined the anatomic relationship of sentinel lymph nodes and axillary level I and II lymph nodes in patients receiving tangential breast irradiation.


A retrospective analysis of 65 simulation fields in women with breast cancer treated with sentinel lymph node surgery and 39 women in whom radiopaque clips demarcated the extent of axillary lymph node dissection was performed. We measured the relationship of the surgical clips to the anatomic landmarks and calculated the percentage of prescribed dose delivered to the sentinel lymph node region.


A cranial field edge 2.0 cm below the humeral head the sentinel lymph node region was included or at the field edge in 95% of the cases and the entire extent of axillary I and II dissection in 43% of the axillary dissection cases. In the remaining 57%, this field border encompassed an average of 80% of cranial/caudal extent of axillary level I and II dissection. In 98.5% of the cases, all sentinel lymph nodes were anterior to the deep field edge and 71% were anterior to the chest wall-interface, whereas 61% of the axillary dissection cohort had extension deep to the chest wall-lung interface. If the deep field edge had been set 2 cm below the chest wall-lung interface, the entire axillary dissection would have been included in 82% of the cases, and the entire sentinel lymph node would have been covered with a 0.5-cm margin. The median dose to the sentinel lymph node region was 98% of the prescribed dose.


By extending the cranial border to 2 cm below the humeral head and 2 cm deep to the chest wall-lung interface, the radiotherapy fields used to treat the breast can include the sentinel lymph node region and most of axillary levels I and II.

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