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J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Oct;49(4):567-88; quiz 589-92.

Reassessing the role of lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy in the management of cutaneous malignant melanoma.

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University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, FL 33612-4719, USA.


Lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy was developed as a minimally invasive technique to provide regional lymph node staging information for patients at high risk for metastatic melanoma, but without clinically palpable disease. Only patients who demonstrate micrometastases undergo complete regional lymphadenectomy, sparing approximately 80% of patients the expense and morbidity of an elective lymph node dissection. This technique has been widely accepted as the preferred method to determine the pathologic status of the regional lymph nodes and the staging information gained is incorporated into the latest version of the American Joint Committee on Cancer staging system for cutaneous melanoma. Still, there is much controversy as to the use of this technique as a staging procedure and its overall therapeutic benefit in the treatment of patients with melanoma. Currently ongoing clinical trials will determine if lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymphadenectomy directly influences overall survival for patients with malignant melanoma. We review the latest technical aspects of this procedure and discuss the controversies surrounding its use.

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