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ANZ J Surg. 2003 Jun;73(6):416-21.

Single institution's initial experience with sentinel lymph node biopsy in breast cancer patients.

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Department of Surgery, Singapore General Hospital, Singapore.



The sentinel lymph node is the first draining node from a cancer-bearing area and is therefore the first to manifest metastasis. In breast cancer it has been shown to predict the axillary status. Axillary dissection provides information determining prognosis and need for adjuvant therapy but carries a certain morbidity. Our aim was to determine the feasibility of detecting the sentinel node in a teaching hospital and whether the sentinel node accurately predicts the axillary status.


All patients with stage I and II breast cancer and non-palpable axillary nodes were eligible, including those with previous excision biopsy. We excluded pregnant women, those with previous axillary surgery and women with advanced breast cancer with enlarged axillary nodes. The sentinel node was detected with technetium-99m-labelled tin colloid and vital blue dye and removed, and axillary clearance was performed.


A total of 312 patients were examined from August 1996 to December 1998. The mean age was 53 years (range 28-83) and mean tumour size 2.6 cm (range 0.2-9.0). The detection rate of the sentinel node was 86%. The sentinel lymph node predicted the axillary status with a sensitivity of 83% and specificity of 100%. The false-negative rate was 16.7%.


Detection of the sentinel lymph node is feasible and it can accurately predict the nodal status of the axilla. However, the high false-negative rate precludes as yet the use of sentinel lymph node biopsy in replacing axillary clearance as the standard of care for breast cancer.

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